I have stories about the WSU medical staff. They're people I have great respect for, and who I have no doubt work with the athletes' best interests in mind. You might be worried about Luke Falk's health, or that he was rushed back, if he plays against Washington. I'll admit that if he takes the field in the Apple Cup, I'll watch with a pit in my stomach. But I also know just how good the WSU medical staff is, and trust their judgment.
We've said this, but none of us are doctors. We don't have all the information available to us when evaluating a player that's hurt. The medical staff has both the training and that information to make the right decision.
Now, you'll point to tension between Mike Leach and the Washington State trainers, and I have a story about that. A few years ago, it felt like the Cougs were averaging more than two concussions a game. After the pace of players being diagnosed with concussions continued, the coaches were asked about it. This was the response:
"It seems like every two or three weeks, guys are getting these concussions that are quote, concussions. Since I've been here, we're getting more concussions than I've seen in my entire life.
"Every game, we're losing guys. You just can't have it the way we're having it right now."
This wasn't Mike Leach. It was Paul Wulff, in 2010.
I bring this up not to throw anyone under the bus, but to point out a culture in which there's a tension between medical personnel and coaches, each of which have a job to protect. The coaches need to win, and need their best players to do it. The doctors took an oath.
This culture and the tension are very dumb, and the trainers should (and do) win out. But the tension creates questions: What if a player is being rushed back; what if there are long-term effects that can stem from this; who is really running the show?
It's weird being on the inside of one of these. My job is, in part, to cover football. I see things that might be head injuries weekly, and question whether players were rushed back. Then when it happens to a team I know, and know the staff of, it changes my reaction from THERE MUST BE SOMETHING FISHY AT PLAY to "I trust the doctors." And that's probably how it should always be, if we're to assume the doctors are good.
At WSU, I know the doctors are good. I know that when they've caught things -- and remember, players hide injuries and specifically concussions -- they've been cautious while treating the injury.
I know that they've literally saved two lives, as well. James Montgomery very well could've lost a leg or died when he suffered Acute Compartment Syndrome. Jeff Tuel, too. It was that serious, and the training staff both caught it and acted swiftly to take care of it. They didn't rush either back, just as Tuel did not rush back from a broken collarbone.
So it is possible that, bad as it looked, Falk plays in the Apple Cup. And it's fine to worry about him -- he's tough as nails, but to a fault. But the WSU training staff is both good and trustworthy, and whatever happens they're going to make decisions with Falk's best interests in mind. Their job is to be the voice of reason, and they're damn good at it.