Diagnosis and medical care of injured Yale football players criticized in the Yale Daily News

Harvard defensive back Norman Hayes (7) and Jaron Wilson (30) bring down Yale running back Tyler Varga (30) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Cambridge, Mass., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Yale’s alleged pattern of mishandling injured football players came under harsh criticism today (Feb. 23rd) in the Yale Daily News, citing, among others, quarterback Rafe Chapple and former star running back Tyler Varga as leading examples.

The very detailed and well-documented report was written by undergraduates Sebastian Kupchaunis and Matthew Mister. It contains statistics, graphics, and comments from interviews with players and others which demonstrate the thoroughness of the research and investigation behind the expose.

The revelations are certain to have ramifications both within and outside of the University and the Ivy League.

UP CLOSE: Understaffed, Yale Sports Medicine Struggles With Student Sports Injuries, the entire report, may (and should) be read by clicking here .

In addition to Chapple and Varga, other players, who were interviewed for the article and expressed dissatisfaction with how their injuries were followed, are: offensive lineman Khalid Cannon, outgoing captain and linebacker Darius Manora, quarterback and linebacker Spencer McManes, linebacker Remick Kawawaki, cornerback Marquise Peggs, and wide receiver Bo Hines, the transfer from North Carolina State who played roughly only three quarters in two seasons.

Notably absent from the article was any comment from or specific reference to head coach, Tony Reno.

Chapple, now a junior, was the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback in the beginning of last season. But he was intercepted five times, completed only 51.2 percent of his passes, and then was benched at halftime of the team’s second game. He did not play since.

However, from the second day of training camp in August, he had complained to the trainers that he had never felt so much pain while throwing. It was dismissed as fatigue or possible tendonitis, he said, and he was given a cortisone shot.

Chapple felt he should have been given an immediate MRI, but the medical people wanted to wait two weeks for one. So he had his parents intercede and the procedure was done days later. It confirmed a torn rotator cuff and internal impingement in his throwing shoulder. Yale doctors then recommended surgery, but Chapple’s parents consulted with the noted sports orthopedist, Dr. James Andrews, who advised against operating in favor of other treatments.

“I feel that at any other (Division I) program I’d have been in an MRI the next day,” Chapple told the writers. “I think the sports trainers do the best that they can, but they are just so understaffed. There’s not nearly enough trainers to deal with the entire football team plus all the other sports.”

Unprecedented number of injuries

The detailed investigative report in the Yale Daily News claims that in the past two seasons an unprecedented number of players had to miss playing time. In 2015, by week seven, 42 of the team’s 110 players were either injured or sick and one quarter of them were out for the season. At the same point in 2016 a quarterback, running back and three receivers were out for the year. Many expected starters never got in a game in 2016.

About the only good thing for Yale football that happened last year was its victory over Harvard. It was all the more remarkable considering how depleted the squad was.

The article cites several other examples of players who said their injuries were misdiagnosed and they were not given proper treatment, mostly resulting from understaffing, as compared with the resources at other Ivy schools.

With the senior athletic trainer, Richard Kaplan, retiring after this year, Tom Beckett, the Athletic Director, told the paper that Yale expects to hire two additional trainers and a part-time physical therapist for the next academic year, which will bring the number of trainers up to 12, still slightly below the average of the seven other Ivy League members. Harvard and Cornell each has 15.

Not even Varga was a happy camper

The great running back of 2014, Tyler Varga, also has misgivings about his medical experiences while in college.

During his junior year he suffered multiple broken bones in his foot and ankle and was disappointed to discover that Yale did not have the equipment known as a bone growth stimulator. He claimed the injury never healed properly, and that the damaged bones in his foot hurt his professional prospects after he was signed by the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. He later retired due to an unrelated injury (concussion).

“A year and a half down the road, I had complications from this injury and missed the NFL Combine, the biggest stage you can be invited to as an NFL prospect,” Varga told the YDN. “Then I had to get ankle surgery before the NFL Draft. It couldn’t have helped my resume, and I think it possibly could have been avoided if the training staff had the necessary tools available.”

Varga did concede that “a couple (of) full-time guys that really care and are doing a great job just felt they weren’t getting the resources they need to do their jobs to the fullest of their abilities, whether that be manpower or different modalities (of rehab equipment).”

Varga summarized his thoughts and hopes that probably typify the feelings of the Yale community. “People go to Yale for one reason: because it’s one of the best institutions in the world, if not the best. That should be across all the phases of the student-athlete experience.”

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