East Lansing — While Mark Dantonio said Tuesday that Michigan State has a specific protocol for handling players who have suffered head injuries, he added it is sometimes hard for coaches and team medical personnel to quickly get a handle on whether a player has suffered such an injury.
"I think it's difficult, because you try and educate them, but at the same time, having played college football, there are times when you hit somebody and you're stunned," Dantonio said.
"You're stunned a little bit. You got to clear your head or whatever the case. And so guys want to stay in. A lot of times they feel like they can stay in and sometimes, quite frankly, they don't tell you. They don't tell you what's going on."
Head injuries became a pressing issue after Michigan quarterback Shane Morris was sent back into the Wolverines' game against Minnesota on Saturday after having suffered what seemed like a head injury.
Dantonio said at Michigan State, the work on dealing with head injuries is done long before anything happens on the field.
"We establish the baseline for every player when they walk in the door," he said. "And that baseline then is given to a young man who has got a possible concussion. And it's called an impact test.
"That impact test basically talks to the relevance of the concussion. I know the younger a player is, even a true freshman, it takes longer for them to get over a concussion than, let's say, a senior, a fifth-year senior. So there is correlation between the age of a young person, and it's important that that person have no symptoms of a concussion."
Dantonio added that Dr. David Kaufman, the chair of the neurology and ophthalmology department at Michigan State, and team physician Dr. Randy Pearson, who is also the director of the MSU Sports Medicine Fellowship, are at every game. He and his staff also must attend classes and pass various tests on concussions.
Some questioned Michigan State in 2012 when then defensive end William Gholston appeared to be knocked out against Ohio State while tackling Braxton Miller. He was hit in the head by teammate Isaiah Lewis and lay motionless on the ground before walking off the field and then returning to the game.
Afterward, Gholston said he had the wind knocked out of him. But he underwent concussion testing on the sidelines before going back in the game.
Dantonio said Tuesday he didn't want to talk about Gholston because he couldn't remember the specific incident, but he was confident the Spartans have put player safety first.
"We're not going to put anybody in the game that we think is at risk," Dantonio said. "We have sat numerous people because of it. That's our policy and I think our doctors are as up as we can on it, but concussions, as you know, there is gray area in that, because players want to continue to play, too, and sometimes you're trying to, they're telling you they're OK and those type of things."
Dantonio also said he is updated on the condition of all injured players after the game.
"The information comes to me immediately, directly, and they tell me that he's got an issue and that we got to keep him out," Dantonio said. "Then we work to try and bring him back gradually. They work through our weight room on treadmills or such or lifting lightly, and then progress to working out heavily and then running heavily.
"And then when they're cleared and they pass their baseline test, there's no headaches, there's no problems, then that's when they're brought back into the fold. But they're, again, brought back in limited, gradually."