Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brain Damage

Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors. ~Frank Gifford

Like many college sports fans, I have the F1T1 virus. That is, I'm sick of everyone talking about Florida and Tim Tebow. In fact, I made myself a little personal pledge that I wouldn't even mention the existence of either unless they were thrashed by 'Bama in the SEC championship or by anyone in a bowl game. But, Florida Coach Urban Meyer needs to be taken to the woodshed and quickly.

For those of you who live on another planet, also known as those who never watch or listen to any sports program, or read sports on the internet or the newspaper -- In other words, for the two of you in the continental US who may not have heard, Tim Tebow got injured last Saturday. After taking a routine hit, he fell back and hit his head on a teammate's leg.

This might not sound like such a much, but having your head come to sudden stop against a leg or a knee is a recipe for getting seriously hurt, either because of a concussion or a neck injury. Mr. Tebow opted for the former. He got a concussion, and it was a doozy. Within a few minutes, he was throwing up and finally was taken to a hospital.

Unless Mr. Tebow is one heck of an actor or a major drama queen (and I don't think he is either), he had a very severe concussion.

His coach, the aforementioned Urban Meyer, has announced that Mr. Tebow should be ready to play against LSU in two weeks.

It is hard to put into polite language just how much contempt I feel at this moment for Urban Meyer.

Concussions used to be taken for granted. If a player "got his bell rung", he staggered over to the sidelines where someone stuck some fingers in front of his face. If the player could guess the number of fingers, give or take a couple, he was okay and likely to be back in the game. At worst, he might sit out the rest of the game and be back the following week.

This is why there are old football players who act like punch-drunk palookas. It's because they have they same kind of condition, repeated brain damage. A concussion is a brain bruise, nothing less. The more times you get hit in the head, the easier it is to get one. Roger Staubach, no stranger to taking a hit, finally retired because he was getting them so frequently.

When Ricky Craven, a pretty fair NASCAR driver, got a serious concussion in an accident, it took over two years for him to completely recover. Another driver, Steve Park went through a similar problem.

If you want a football example, you need look no further than Kurt Warner. Mr. Warner was a very successful quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, coached by the destroyer of quarterbacks, Mike Martz. Mr. Warner sustained a severe concussion and came back too soon. His first (and last) game back for the Rams was a fiasco. He fumbled a couple of times and looked totally lost on the field. He was sent to the bench and languished there until he was cut a year or so later. He has made a comeback with the Phoenix Cardinals, getting them to the Super Bowl last year, but it was a long and trying recovery. It was a recovery that might have been impossible had Martz kept him in any longer.

Concussions, then, are very serious business, not to be taken lightly. Once a player suffers a severe one, there will be more. No amount of additional padding in the helmet will help, because it's not the impact, but the sudden stopping of the head that causes the damage. The brain -- I'm explaining this for Coach Meyer, who apparently doesn't have a clue -- the brain floats inside the skull. When the skull stops suddenly, the brain keeps going and slams into the skull, which has no padding, thank you.

Concussion is the polite term. What this gives you is brain damage. The only cure is to avoid sustaining those sorts of impact until the brain is completely healed.

Mr. Tebow is a running quarterback who likes to put his head down and take on tacklers. He is a potential poster child for brain damage.

No one can tell within a day or two just how severe a concussion might be or how long a player might need to recover. Yet, on Monday after the game, here's Coach Meyer saying Mr. Tebow will rise up and smite, yea verily, LSU. Mr. Tebow is apparently a nice guy; he's also a very competitive individual. It's likely that a doctor would have to threaten to sedate him to keep him out of a game. Yet,apparently worried that said doctors might try to get Mr. Tebow to be sensible or that Mr. Tebow just might be worried about the long term effects of scrambled brains, Urban Meyer is essentially telling Mr. Tebow he expects him to suck it up and win one for the Gators.

More importantly, he's telling him to win one for Urban Meyer.

If Coach Meyer had waited until next Monday (Florida is off Saturday) after full medical testing, clearance from the doctors, and the disappearance of the headaches that Mr. Tebow still has, it might make sense for him to be saying that his star would play. But, making such an announcement while Tebow's head still aches, and almost surely before doctors have cleared the player, is disgusting.

I guess he figures he needs the wins to put him into a better position to replace Charlie Weiss at Notre Dame at the end of the year.

Mr. Tebow is risking further brain damage; his coach's brain is evidently missing a few critical components of its own, like ethics, compassion, and fair play.

And probably no one kicked Coach Meyer in the head.

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