Quarterback Crunch: Justin Fields And the Hit Felt ‘Round Ohio

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As the Division 1A college football season hurtles towards its conclusive national championship game between Ohio State and Alabama on January 11, one of the most closely followed storylines has focused upon the health of the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, Justin Fields. 

Fields, who was the recipient of a bone-jarring hit by Clemson linebacker James Skalski in the second quarter of the Allstate Sugar Bowl, would only miss one play as a result, pausing briefly to receive pain-relieving medical treatment on the sideline. He would return to finish the game with an epic performance that saw him tally 385 passing yards, six touchdowns, and one interception. 

Questions have swirled about the quarterback’s health and readiness to face the Crimson Tide, though Ohio State head coach Ryan Day recently said that Fields will be ready to go come game time

Premier Health Now asked sports medicine specialist Aloiya Earl, MD, to weigh in on Justin Field’s health and Ohio State’s current decision to allow him to return to play. 

Down But Not Out 

The hit to Fields may have produced a variety of devastating injuries, but the apparent decision to let him play against Alabama seems to indicate that these may have been largely avoided. 

“The current plan shows that Ohio State’s medical staff likely ruled out any organ damage, such as liver or kidney laceration or contusion,” says Dr. Earl. “That still leaves the possibility of either rib contusions (bruising) or non-displaced rib fractures — and possibly even a bone bruise of the hip. Even so, he could still play without restrictions, as long as his pain is under control and he can still effectively run and throw while protecting the injured area.” 

Dr. Earl indicates that Fields likely received a CT scan of his abdomen and pelvis after the game to get a more accurate look at his ribs, hip, and internal organs. Though this technology was not available during the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State’s medical team would have completed a thorough series of diagnostic protocols and procedures to properly gauge his health and safety before clearing him to play, Dr. Earl says. Now that it appears Fields will be healthy enough to play in the national championship, the remaining focus will be on recovery and preparation. 

“I anticipate he's probably being treated with icing along with the possible use of therapeutic ultrasound over the affected area,” says Dr. Earl. “He may also be receiving a regimen of anti-inflammatory medications, and could also receive additional nerve-blocking injections prior to the game, depending on his pain levels and the decision of the medical staff.”

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