This website is about injuries, how they happen, when they happen and how they might be prevented in the future.
Sometimes this is educational for players, other times this is equipment oriented. Whatever the mechanism to stop the injury, we want to discuss it here, openly and honestly.
This weekend there was a very cheap shot thrown by one Rob Gronkowski.
The hit in question came after a play ended; Tre’Davious White was on the ground, face forward, half out of bounds. Anyone in their right mind would have known the play was over, and let’s also take a moment to point out that the whistle had blown. (Yes there was a flag on the play, and we know that, it isn’t the point).
Mr. White was injured. He got up very slowly, and immediately left the game to go into the concussion protocol. When Tre’Davious White took off his helmet his eyes were closed and he obviously had problems to cope with. The concussion protocol was exactly the right move.
Gronk stayed in the game.
So, there is the situation, now let’s look at the mechanics of what happened.
Mr. Gronkowski weighs around 265 pounds; add to that his equipment and you have a 275 pound missile that threw himself at the head of another player.
When you look at hits, and I designed military armor for a living for a while, you want to have a hit that is spread out over a large area. It means the impact is lessoned. Look at a bullet; they are shaped to a point, so that the impact is greater on a tiny area. Spread that impact out over a larger area and it doesn’t penetrate as far, or do as much damage.
So, what does this have to do with Mr. Gronkowski? A lot.
Look at the hit.
The man he hit, Tre’Davious White, weighs 192 pounds. Compare that to Gronk, and you have a large mass hitting a smaller mass. We all understand the physics of that.
Now, let’s go one step further and look at what Gronk did. He threw himself through the air, like a bullet, at Tre’Davious White’s head. Worse than that, he extended his elbow to intentionally drive his entire weight, moving quickly through the air, into the man’s head.
Now, let’s look more closely at Mr. Gronkowski’s safety equipment. He was wearing an elbow brace with metal rods sticking out beyond his actual elbow. This safety equipment is what hit the back of Tre’Davious White’s head, and not Gronk’s actual wrist. So, put another way, Gronk didn’t feel a thing from this collision.
So, now let’s get back to the target in this case, the rookie Tre’Davious White. He didn’t see the hit coming, had no chance to brace for impact, and thereby the full force of the impact was going to be felt. It hit the back of his helmet full force, pile driving his head into the dirt.
Ok, the helmet will stop his head from being crushed, but let’s think about the physics for a second.
Sir Isaac Newton taught us this thing called conservation of energy. That means energy from something doesn’t just disappear, it is going to go someplace. In this case if you watch the video, the young Mr. White was hit in the head, hyperextending his neck, causing certainly some whiplash, his head bounced off the ground. So let’s see what all of this means.
Let’s focus on the head for a minute. The human brain is not attached to the skull in any way. It floats in a fluid. I was researching traumatic brain injury in soldiers when I met, on many occasions medical doctors specializing in brain trauma. We were discussing how to make helmets that can protect soldiers from head injuries. I learned a lot about how the brain and the body interact.
Anyway, the point is the brain isn’t connected and floats in this fluid. So they tell me, when dehydrated, you can get a headache caused by this fact. However, in the case of whiplash like you see going on with Tre’Davious White his head bounced around a few times in rapid succession after the childlike hit by Gronk. That means that his brain hit one side of his skull, then the other side, and back again a few times.
If you think that isn’t a problem, I have some beachfront property to sell in Arizona.
So, now let’s look at his neck. His neck took a great deal of force from this hit. The spine is a big part of that piece of your body. His spine also took a great deal of this hit. If damage (any level) of how that damage occurred between his spine and his brain his motor skills can be impacted.
In short, Gronk’s antics likely caused a concussion, could have damaged motor skills, and has taken a first year player and may have destroyed some of his career moving forward.
How can this have been prevented? Would safety equipment have made a difference? Maybe, but there are two ways this might have been changed.
My guess is that Gronkowski knew he wouldn’t feel a thing thanks to the brace on his arm. So, why not use that to your advantage? That piece of equipment can be, and was used as a weapon. Perhaps that type of brace, while keeping Gronkowski safe should be reviewed as something that shouldn’t be allowed for the obvious reason.
Now, let’s look at Tre’Davious White’s equipment. Can something be designed to have protected him in this case? Well maybe, but is that necessary.
I think in this case the league has an opportunity here that can prevent future injuries. Fining Gronkowski isn’t going to help. A quick google search shows that he lives off endorsements and saves 100% of his NFL salary making his net worth in excess of $16Million, so fining him, while it makes a great headline, doesn’t help much.
You want to stop this kind of thing and prevent a future injury of this short the league can send a message. Take the guy who is on the current iteration of Madden whatever software, take an offensive player the Patriot’s lean on and suspend him for a very long time. The Patriots will fight that, but if I were the owner (a.k.a. Employer) of a guy who did this, I’d fire him. I don’t care how many games it costs it does not send a good message to the fans, and REALLY doesn’t send a good message to the countless young players just entering the game, hoping to make it to the NFL that watch Gronk and want to be like him.
We need to end these types of antics, and keep players safe. Gronk needs to be dealt with, and I wish Mr. Tre’Davious White a speedy recovery.