The timing of Kevin Wilson’s firing — because that’s what it was, a dismissal, not a resignation, no matter how Indiana University’s announcement read — may have raised a few eyebrows. How could it not? The Hoosiers had just become bowl eligible days earlier for the second consecutive year by winning the Old Oaken Bucket game for the fourth year in a row.
Yet, the fact that it happened isn’t surprising at all. According to the Indianapolis Star, athletic director Fred Glass took the action as a result of a second investigation in two years — authorized by Glass — into the football program’s medical and coaching staff, especially Wilson.
The first investigation, according to the Star, occurred in the spring and summer of 2015, and what it found was appalling. More on that momentarily.
However, I am aware of an investigation that occurred even earlier, in the fall of 2013. That probe was the result of the School of Public Health removing its student athletic trainers from the IU football program with two games remaining on the schedule. Student athletic trainers would not return to the IU football sidelines until 2015.
Nonetheless, the misconduct continued, perhaps explaining the revolving door on the office of the football head athletic trainer for the past four years. Crown Point native Kyle Blackman is in his first year in the position after six years as an assistant with the Washington Redskins. He is the third person to hold the job since 2013.
Consequently, he had no part in the spring 2015 circumstances reported by the Star. Back then, the parent of a player from Cincinnati complained to Glass that his son had suffered a severe back injury that was initially ignored by the IU athletic trainers in the fall of 2014. Despite pain starting to go down his leg after a little more than a week of isolated low back pain, he was refused treatment. Worse, he was forced to continue practicing and weightlifting for three weeks before going home and to see his own physician. Only then did the IU medical staff send the athlete to Indianapolis for testing that revealed a chip fracture and three damaged discs in the lower back.
Thereafter, the athlete reported the treatment he received from the medical staff and assistant coaches improved dramatically but not that by Wilson, who was accused of constant verbal abuse of injured players.
Once Glass became aware of the allegations and then the results of the investigation, which was performed by an Indianapolis law firm, he apparently warned Wilson that no such mistreatment would be further tolerated. When new allegations of similar behavior arose this season, the end had begun.
What I find more disturbing, though, is how the athlete in question was forced to seek the care of his own physician.
Low back pain that lasts a week or more is never a strained muscle. Usually, the source of such pain is a bone injury, a bulging disc, or pressure on a nerve root from a herniated disc. If it hurts to sit and/or bend forward, a disc injury is more likely. If it hurts to stand and/or bend backward, a bone injury should be suspected.
All sports medicine professionals — athletic trainers, physical therapists, physicians and strength coaches — need to be aware of the significance of such signs and symptoms. If not, they should not be working with athletes.
John Doherty is a licensed athletic trainer and physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.