Two football players were injured, coincidentally both in New Jersey, in scary plays this weekend as Detroit Lions linebacker Zack Follett and Rutgers University defensive tackle Eric LeGrand were both carted off the field while immobilized and taken to the hospital.
Word came on Sunday afternoon that, tragically, LeGrand is now paralyzed from the neck down following emergency surgery to stabilize his spinal cord. No detailed prognosis was given, though Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was said to be crying while meeting with reporters to discuss the situation.
At almost the same time that Schiano was speaking, Follett was injured during what appeared to be a routine play during the fourth quarter of the Lions game against the New York Giants in the early minutes of the fourth quarter on Sunday.
The New Meadowlands Stadium crowd fell silent as players from both teams were still, seemingly looking for indications that Follet would signal that he was okay. Disturbingly, the customary ‘thumbs up’ sign that most players give when being carted off the field was missing. Giants fans and players clapped for Follett as he was tied down and carted off.
Early reports from the hospital were that Follett had some feeling in his extremities; a hopeful but far from conclusive sign about his condition.
So in less than twenty four hours, two football players, one in the NFL and one in college, have been carted off the field as the nightmare scenario of paralysis was feared. In the case of the college player LeGrand it appears that at least for now the worst may be coming true. While there is reason to hope for the NFL player Follett, he is far from out of the woods.
In neither case was there a ‘dirty’ play. In neither case could the injury been prevented with better equipment. In neither case did anybody involved do anything irresponsible.
But as much as people love to play and watch football at both the college and NFL levels, could this sport someday be considered too dangerous to continue under current rules and conditions?
Before laughing off such a notion, do not forget that it really was not that long ago in American history when boxing was the far bigger sport than football. While it is not the only reason, a major contributing factor to boxing’s decline is the danger involved and the seemingly barbaric nature of it.
Football has a problem. That two players at the highest levels of the sport lie in New Jersey hospitals at the same time hoping to someday walk again is merely the latest instance of the problem. As Eric LeGrand lies paralyzed and Zack Follett hopes to regain movement, we all know that more will inevitably follow.