UPDATE: [Note by Joel, 01/05/09 10:10 PM EST ] And just like that, the report just after the second half started is that Lane is moving both arms and that everything was just precautionary. Fantastic news. Now back to the game.
Sports injuries, especially football injuries, generally look much worse than what they really are. Just last week, Vol fans were holding their collective breath when Tennessee basketball player Wayne Chism was immobilized on a stretcher and transported by ambulance to the hospital. A few days later, he was playing against Kansas.
Even with the most gruesome injuries -- like Alabama's Tyrone Prothro's (warning: graphic content) or Tennessee's David Holbert's (warning: graphic content) -- players are expected to mostly recover full use of their bodies even if their ability to use it for sports is impaired.
In rare cases, though, an injury is bad. Really bad. Bad enough that a person becomes permanently disabled. And usually these injuries are the results of collisions that don't really look all that scary. Like the injury to Tennessee's Inky Johnson a few years ago that left him unable to use one of his arms.
When Ohio State's Shaun Lane slumped to the turf immediately upon making a special teams tackle in tonight's Fiesta Bowl, I thought of Inky Johnson even as the broadcast was cutting to commercial. I thought of him more when, upon returning from break, players were scattered on the field around the gold cart and the stretcher. And still more when the announcers were encouraged by Lane giving the thumbs up sign as he was being carted off. I wasn't looking at the outstretched thumb on the raised hand, I was looking at the medical personnel carefully holding the other arm immobile.
Appearances are deceiving. What looks ordinary is often worse than you imagine. But sometimes what looks awful and reminds you of some other horrid thing is really just the ordinary dressed up in the robes of nightmares. Here's to hoping and praying that the report on Shaun Lane is immediate, before the game is over or early tomorrow morning, that he's just had a stinger or a contusion of some scary sort. If not, I will keep thinking of Inky.
More on Inky, because whatever happens with Lane, Inky's worthy of continued prayers and remembrance for what he gave to, and gave up for, us fans: