Do sports broadcasts need to change how they show injuries?

Jake Stringer is assisted to his feet by club doctors. Picture: Essendon FC

Last November Formula 1 Driver Daniel Ricciardo sparked controversy by unleashing at broadcasters during the Bahrain Grand Prix after a horrifying crash which almost cost driver Romain Grosjean his life.

Ricciardo, and everyone watching, was forced to wait for the race to resume while the accident was dealt with. During that time, the fiery crash was replayed repeatedly over the next hour, while the fans and drivers waited for the race to resume.

The Aussie opined after the session about the need for the broadcaster to show the crash repeatedly and from every angle.

“Why do we need to see this?” Ricciardo said of the event.

“We’re competing again in an hour. His family has to keep watching that. All our families have to keep watching that … It’s really unfair. It’s not entertainment.”

He was not impressed and backlash on Twitter suggests the fans weren’t either, with the general consensus being the broadcasters went overboard with the amount of times they replayed the incident.

Which begs the question: do sports broadcasters need to change how they show injuries?

LISTEN: The Getting A Grip team discuss the Grosjean crash and Ricciardo’s response

How do Aussie networks showcase serious injuries?

Showing injury replays on repeat is nothing local viewers aren’t used to.

The AFL and the NRL tend to replay serious injuries during their broadcasts. From multiple angles, then later in the match. And then on the news that night, or next day.

This past year, Western Bulldogs’ Toby McLean injured his ACL. Channel 7 replayed the injury from three different angles, immediately after the injury.

If you go back and watch the 1997 preliminary final, which was broadcast on the same network, you can see Tony Modra’s knee injury from several angles almost immediately afterwards. Front on, reverse angle, side on, and while the game is still in progress you can see him being tended to. It’s an old example but it highlights how this not a new thing.

“It’s not entertainment.” – Daniel Ricciardo

The NRL has a similar approach on their broadcasts. In one of the worst injuries in the history of sport, Alex McKinnon was left a quadriplegic after a tackle sustained playing for the Newcastle Knights in 2014.

McKinnon fractured his C4 and C5 vertebrae in the incident. Much like the knee injuries mentioned above, the injury was replayed from three different angles, as the game was stopped to carry Mckinnon off.

Australia isn’t the only country in the world that has an obsession with replaying injuries ad nauseam.

Basketball fans will remember Paul George’s devastating leg injury, which occurred when representing his country back in 2014. Not only did the broadcaster show replay after replay, but the incident went instantly viral, and anyone with a social media account would have been exposed.

What leagues do it differently?

The English Premier League is one organisation that bucks the trend when it comes to player injuries.

Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk suffered an ACL injury against Everton in October of 2020. If you didn’t see the replay, you wouldn’t see it again on the broadcast. You would however see it later on, during the highlight reel.

Being one of the world’s best defenders meant this injury was incredibly newsworthy, but the broadcaster was quick to move on and cover the rest of the match.

What can we learn from how different sports showcase injury?

Injuries are definitely newsworthy, and there’s no denying that. But are we handling them the right way? If the EPL sees no need for endless replays of injuries, then why do the others go in a different direction?

Romain Grosjean nearly died in the crash at Bahrain, a crash replayed multiple times over the course of an hour. Definitely newsworthy, but perhaps an impassioned Ricciardo had the most measured response of all.

“Choose to do that tomorrow, but not today,” Perhaps more broadcasters should heed those words.

If broadcasters decided to use more decorum and decide that while injuries are a huge part of the sport, they are not the only part of the sport, the better the viewing experience for everyone at home will be.

Because let’s face it – who really wants to see injuries anyway?

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