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Just What Happened to Bryn Renner on Saturday?

Bryn Renner runs the ball during the third quarter against Wake Forest. Wake defeated the Heels 28-27.
Bryn Renner runs the ball during the third quarter against Wake Forest. Wake defeated the Heels 28-27.

In writing about the game Saturday night, I briefly menyioned the collision that kept Bryn Renner off the field for the team's second score:

The real problem was Bryn Renner. He suffered what the entire veiwing audience was ready to diagnose as a concussion (he briefly lost consciousness) on UNC's second touchdown drive of the second quarter. The medical staff cleared him to play and he didn't miss a series. He fumbled away the ball the next time he took the field however, and was a step off the rest of the night.

I hedged on purpose there. While it looked to me to be an obvious concussion, I am not a medical professional, and it would have been irresponsible to say anything more definite than that. And I still got some pushback in comments. Then yesterday, Larry Fedora denied it was anything remotely concussion-like in his weekly press conference:

"After going back and evaluating it there was nothing to do with his head. There was no contact to his head. He got the wind knocked out of him and got hit pretty good. Actually the two guys that made contact with themselves it was pretty violent hit there on each other. He didn't get the most of it I can assure you. He really came out of it fine physically and mentally I think once he settled down afterwards I think he was okay, but obviously the next series was not good for him.

"That's something, let me tell you, you're going to play that position, it's going to happen and you got to learn to shake it off and move on to the next play and that's just something for the quarterback spot that you got to be able to do."

(I'd love to embed a video here, but the two I've found are Inside Carolina's, where Duran Lowe's hit is completely obscured and a Wake fan video on YouTube that's in exceedingly poor taste.)

This explanation is getting a fair amount of criticism online; Wake blogger Martin Rickman took to the SB Nation front page to make some excellent points about the role of coaches being vigilant in monitoring concussions and some weaker ones that go too far in implying a coverup. Another blogger at Yahoo is convinced Renner wasn't hit in the ribs.

Now Renner was saying as soon as the game ended that it was a rib injury that knocked the wind out of him, and I can believe it. Whether it was Lowe, the ball, or Renner's own body that ricocheted back into is chest, your going to remember the pain, and not necessarily the instant of blunt force that caused it. The head pointing is... problematic. It wouldn't have been my first reaction, but I don't know what goes through a quarterback's head at the best of times; if you're trying to get something across to the coaching staff about you, you're going to gesture as high as possible to be seen.

I think what's really troubling me at the moment, with as little as I know of what went on, is Fedora's second paragraph I quoted above. It's a quick transition to standard coachspeak; it's meant to get Fedora on familiar press conference ground. But it's the wrong thing to say here. Concussion or no, you don't want to append a play-through-the-pain note to a question about your quarterback passing out. Because there are a lot of concussions happening in the sport, and the medical dangers they cause are just now coming to light. Just today a study was published saying retired NFL players were three times more likely to die from diseases that damage brain cells than normal folks.

Bryn Renner wasn't concussed. But I guarantee you that at least one kid watching him last weekend probably will be soon. And the last thing they need to take away from that hit was a lesson on playing through the pain.