MANHATTAN, Kan., Sept. 18 - When Kansas State quarterback Ell Roberson injured his left wrist, the obvious question was whether it was related to the injury that forced him to miss one game last year.
InsertArt(2017014)COACH BILL SNYDER wasn’t the person to provide the answer: “He hurt his hand. Both times.”
Snyder’s refusal to address injuries at length is nothing new. After all, he — like Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, also loath to discuss injuries — was an assistant under Hayden Fry, the tightlipped former coach at Iowa.
“Hayden wouldn’t tell anybody anything,” Alvarez said.
But this year, Snyder and Alvarez have a lot more company.
When a player went down in Nebraska’s nationally televised game against Penn State last Saturday, television commentators could not provide an update — because neither school discloses injury information.
And earlier this month, after confirming that star quarterback Brad Smith had a mild concussion, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said, “That’s the last information you’ll get out of me on any kind of injuries.”
So what’s behind this silent treatment?
Some schools point to the federal Health Insurance Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which took effect in April. It bars the release of most medical information without a patient’s consent.
Kansas, for example, cites HIPAA in its new policy. It requires a separate waiver for each injury — so, for example, an athlete could choose to let the school talk about a jammed finger, but could later refuse to let the school discuss severity of an ankle sprain.
But officials at Arkansas and Wisconsin say HIPAA applies to hospitals, not universities. Those schools use the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act as a benchmark. That law allows — but does not require — disclosure of injury information if an athlete signs a blanket release.
“At Arkansas, we’ve always tried to be open and honest about the status of our players,” sports information director Kevin Trainor said. “We might not go into the detail that we used to, but we always feel that truthful and accurate information is the best way to go.”
The NFL requires full disclosure of the nature of injuries and a report on player’s status for upcoming games. The league is now considering fining Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan for lying about quarterback Jake Plummer’s separated shoulder.
“I come up and tell you exactly where we’re at with all our players today as they are. Once a week, you be very honest with exactly what’s going to happen for the upcoming game,” Pinkel said. “I don’t think we have to do it every day, but I just think it would be the right thing for college football. But nobody’s going to listen to me.”
Pinkel isn’t alone, though.
“If everybody had to do it, that would be fine,” said Southern Cal’s Pete Carroll, a former NFL head coach with the New England Patriots and New York Jets.
Oddsmakers use injury information to help set point spreads, something the NCAA doesn’t want to support.
“We’re not here to feed the gamblers,” Kansas State’s Snyder said. “We’re here to protect young people.
“If your son is playing for us ... do you really want me to go out and tell the opponent exactly where, and the nature of the injury?” Snyder said. “If you do, then I question your parenthood.”
“We didn’t want anyone to know it was broken, because I knew someone would try to take me out,” Leftwich said.
That’s less a problem than it used to be, longtime Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said.
“When I was coming up in coaching, when you’d go to play somebody, the coach would say, ’His knee is hurt — his right one,”’ Bowden said. “They wouldn’t tell you to go after it. But they would tell you where it was.”
But injured players can still find themselves targeted, said Kansas State linebacker Josh Buhl.
“I can’t say if I would do that or not, but I think there are guys who would,” Buhl said. “I know that you try to use whatever information you have to your advantage.”
At Georgia Tech, coach Chan Gailey rarely gives the specifics of an injury to a player. Safety Chris Reis left last week’s game against Florida State on a medical cart, with his helmet removed, and Gailey would only say Reis would be out for a few games.
Reis said Tuesday that he had a concussion.
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