Outrage after Joe Buck says symptoms of a player’s concussion can stem from the cold


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The NFL Los Angeles Chargers have said tight end Donald Parham Jr. is recovering after being diagnosed with a concussion in last night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Parham appeared to pass out before being transported off the field. NPR’s Tom Goldman reports that there has been an outcry over how the frightening incident was covered by the national television show.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Donald Parham Jr.’s injury occurred early in the game after catching a short pass for an apparent touchdown. He fell and his head tipped back onto the grass. He dropped the ball and rolled to the side. The camera zoomed in on his face, showing his eyes closed as both arms were bent and rigidly flexed. With the previously loud crowd at SoFi Stadium in LA now muffled, Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck described the scene.


JOE BUCK: They take out the back panel. We saw him move his hands, move his legs during the time out.

BUCK: While watching the show, Chris Nowinski, co-founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation in Boston, interpreted Parham’s flexed and trembling arms as a fencing response, which can happen after a concussion.

CHRIS NOWINSKI: He clearly suffered brain damage and potential spinal injury. And they took him on a backboard.

GOLDMAN: But then Nowinski heard Buck say this.


BUCK: The last thing we would do is speculate about an injury, especially this guy. But when you see his arms shaking and his hands shaking on the way out, that’s the part that is the most annoying. I’ll just add this. It’s very cold, at least by Los Angeles standards, on the pitch. And I hope that was more of the problem than anything else.

NOWINSKI: I was incredibly disappointed and frustrated.

GOLDMAN: Nowinski tweeted that Buck’s comment represented the background for sports broadcast, and he wasn’t alone. Social media erupted, outraged that Buck was speculating about the injury after saying he would never do that, and said Parham was shaking because he was cold. For Nowinski, the disappointment wasn’t just due to Buck making what appeared to be an ill-informed comment. It was because of the way it could be taken by those watching and listening. Parents, coaches and kids, he says, learn from NFL shows.

NOWINSKI: That kind of blanket will literally hurt the kids because the next day when a kid plays a sport and they have concussion symptoms on the court, you know, if someone has tremors, someone will go, oh they just need to get a sweater, right? It’s no. We have to take them seriously. It’s brain damage.

GOLDMAN: He recognizes that the NFL has made great strides in taking these injuries seriously. Strong protocols now, for the most part, prevent players from playing if they have a concussion or are showing symptoms. There are better prevention policies and better treatment plans. Last night was an example, as staff from paramedics to independent medical professionals took immediate action when Parham was injured.

Messaging, however, says Nowinski, is the next battle – how the country is talking about concussion. And it’s especially relevant this week, when researchers at Boston University, who are collaborating with Nowinski’s Foundation, revealed to former NFL players that they were suffering from advanced brain disease linked to football head injuries. Both died in their thirties. One of them murdered six other people before committing suicide.

Fox Sports did not respond to a request for comment on Joe Buck’s statement. The Chargers’ latest statement said Parham, who is 24, spent the night at UCLA Harbor Medical Center for observation after being diagnosed with a concussion. He was alert and should be released soon. Tom Goldman, NPR News.

(FROM JOEY PECORARO’S SONG, “HERE WE ARE AGAIN”) Transcription provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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