Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who was carted off the field at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Oct. 30 after San Diego Chargers running back Melvin Gordon was blocked into him, is inadvertently bringing increased attention to sideline safety.
Phillips suffered no injuries, despite his head striking the ground. Nonetheless, observing medical personnel strap the coach to a backboard and haul him off the field qualifies as a scary moment.
A month earlier, Anthony “Taps” Cantafio, a statistician for Scranton Preparatory School in Pennsylvania, wasn’t as fortunate. During a game at Henzes/Veterans Memorial Stadium, a running back was driven out of bounds and collided with Cantafio. The 67-year-old former coach and teacher hit the ground hard, the back of his head smacking the asphalt that borders the field. Ten days later, he was dead.
“Are there too many people on the sidelines?” asked a staff writer for The Times Tribune in Scranton. “Does every person on the sideline serve a purpose for being there? Do they have enough protection with such a physical game being played right in front of them? Are there ways to minimize the risk?”
Those are questions many athletic administrators are asking themselves in the wake of sideline collisions involving players and non-players. After Cantafio’s death, some school districts in Pennsylvania reportedly created lists of individuals cleared to be on the sidelines — a move that limits liability and reduces the potential for injury to anyone who does not perform a designated function on the sidelines.
Another solution some field operators are considering: Installing a thick rubber surface behind both benches, which would provide a layer of protection if someone on the sidelines hits the ground.
“I guess the hope would be in such an unfortunate incident that people would use the incident to sort of just learn from it and do their own evaluation,” Scranton Prep athletic director Scott Gower told The Times-Tribune.
With countless sports destinations hosting football championships over the next several weeks, it might be worthwhile considering ways to enhance sideline safety.