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League must learn lesson from Simms
By JOANNE KORTH
Published October 1, 2006
This time, everything turned out okay.
An ambulance whisked Chris Simms from Raymond James Stadium to nearby St. Joseph's Hospital moments after the Bucs game ended, and emergency surgery was performed. The 26-year-old quarterback's ruptured spleen was removed, and he received transfusions to replace the blood he lost.
Simms will be just fine.
But what about next time?
Everyone acknowledges there is a certain degree of risk involved in sports. Some, such as auto racing, boxing and football, are inherently dangerous. Participating takes courage.
Simms is proof of that.
We might never know at precisely what point during the game Simms began bleeding inside. Some speculate it wasn't until late in the fourth quarter after a devastating hit by Panthers tackle Al Wallace. Though not penalized at the time, Wallace was fined $7,500 by the league for driving Simms into the ground with his body.
Others say Simms showed signs of discomfort as early as the first quarter, when he first complained of pain in his chest.
Others point to his third-quarter touchdown run, in which Simms was hit hard and spun around in the air by linebacker Adam Seward as he dived for the goal line.
What is clear is Simms finished an NFL game - his final pass was a deep ball intended for Joey Galloway - with a ruptured spleen, a potentially life-threatening condition if left untreated.
What also is clear is Simms had no intention of leaving the game, no matter how much it hurt. Only when he could no longer stand up did Simms retreat to the locker room for intravenous fluids.
He missed two offensive plays.
Several doctors agree the symptoms for internal bleeding mirror those for dehydration. In examining Simms several times during the course of the game, team doctor Joe Diaco found no evidence of a spleen injury. Coach Jon Gruden said it was believed Simms had sore ribs.
So, while Simms recovers, the NFL should work on its diagnostics.
Yes, bones break, ligaments tear and spleens rupture. But it's a mistake just to dismiss what happened by saying, "It's a brutal game." Just because players accept the risk doesn't mean the risk can't be minimized.
That Simms made it to the hospital in time for surgery is not the point. The point is, he might not have.
Simms wasn't the first athlete to rupture his spleen during a game. With players growing bigger, stronger and faster, it stands to reason he won't be the last.
The league must learn from what happened to Simms and take every possible measure to prevent it in the future.
Perhaps the use of team doctors on the sideline should be examined. Perhaps better medical equipment should be installed at every stadium. Perhaps guidelines for rib injuries, which so often are the precursor for more serious injuries, should be established.
Before it's too late.
Don't you believe NASCAR officials wish they could turn back the clock to install soft walls at every track and make head-and-neck restraints mandatory before drivers Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Dale Earnhardt were killed?
Innovation is not only possible, it's necessary.
Sometimes, life's valuable lessons are learned the hard way. By reviewing the case of Simms, the NFL has a chance to act first.