In the light of Gordon Hayward’s ankle injury on national television to essentially open the NBA season, the topic of injuries is front and centre in a lot of sportscasters minds.
Injuries are common place in sport. Most sports are at least semi-contact, and with that comes the likelihood of someone being injured. Thankfully most are simple enough and require at most a couple of weeks out of the lineup. However as evidenced by Gordon Hayward’s broken ankle, some injuries are more serious.
However regardless of the injury, there are some important lessons to remember when it comes to being in front of a live microphone when a player is down on the field of play.
1. You’re not a doctor
This one is the first and most important rule when covering injuries as a sportscaster…don’t diagnose. Even if you feel it’s clear and easy to tell what’s going on, you don’t know exactly what the situation is for a number of reasons. First, you likely didn’t go to medical school or receive any extensive medical training to make that determination, so you’re essentially guessing. Would you guess at a players name? Or the score? Or a stat in your prep? No. Injuries are no different. Secondly you’re, at best, courtside. At worst, you’re high in the rafters of an arena or in the stands of a football stadium. You’re not field level and if you are, you’re not on the field of play. What might look like a sprain could be a break, could be a tear or could be nothing.
If you’re looking for things to talk about, talk about what you saw, talk about what’s happening, talk about what is factual. Don’t speculate.
2. Know who you’re talking to
Understand that at many levels where sportscasters ply their trade, a large part of the broadcast audience is made up of friends and families of the players and staff. If Joe Smith goes down with an injury, you can imagine that Joe Smith’s parents, friends, family, etc who are watching or listening are hanging on your every word. How did he go down? Is he still down? Is he moving? What’s happening? All these things are going through their minds. Idle speculation on injuries can cause unnecessary stress for your audience with a vested interest.
3. Get an expert or confirmed report ASAP
If at all possible, get down to the room or send a runner during a stoppage. The best thing you can do for coverage of the injury is to get accurate, reliable information directly from the source. Now it might be entirely possible that the information you receive for most injuries is “he’s fine” or something equally as vague…however that gives you something to discuss on air and gives you a source to use in order to backup your statements.
Injuries come part and parcel with sport and it’s only a matter of time before a serious one occurs when you’re on the air. Just yesterday, I had a situation where an opposition player hit hard in to the edge of the boards by one of the benches. As soon as he hit the ice he started convulsing and seizuring on the ice before he was jumped on and tended to by medical personnel and training staff from both teams. The injury resulted in the arena going dead-calm for about 15 minutes while he was tended to, an ambulance backed onto the ice and took him away on a stretcher.
The key in my situation was to communicate what was happening, and what had happened. I didn’t speculate on the injury, I actually hadn’t seen the contact as my view was obstructed by players on the bench. I didn’t jump to conclusions or guess to the player. I got confirmation from a coach on the bench as to who it was and relayed that information. Ultimately, sticking to the facts is what kept that situation from getting out of hand.
What are some of the horror injuries you’ve had to call on air? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.