Due to injury, tight end Ladarius Green hasn’t been able to practice for the Steelers since the start of training camp. So what exactly is ailing Green? Depends who you ask. Green either has an ankle injury or a head injury, and everything about his situation is just as confusing as that sounds.
When the Steelers placed Green on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list at the start of camp, it was widely reported that Green’s ankle—which had been surgically repaired in the offseason—was the reason.
But then last week came reports that recurring headaches—and not the ankle—were the problem. Green, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was in the concussion protocol, and Green’s agent even told NFL.com that Green’s ankle is “fine.”
Suddenly, the question was whether Green, who signed with the Steelers as a free agent this offseason, had misled his new team by not telling them about his recurring headaches. According to the hot-takers, it was time for the Steelers to cut Green and try to recoup his $4.75 million signing bonus.
It’s been documented that Green sustained a pair of concussions in a matter of days early last season, when he played for the Chargers. Yet he only missed a total of one game as a result. It’s impossible to know whether Green was rushed back too soon, and it’s likewise impossible for the league’s concussion protocol to shed any light on the situation. Green also had a documented head injury during Week 14 of the 2014 season.
But that’s not where the confusion ends. Mike Tomlin responded to the reports about Green’s headaches by saying Green is “on PUP because of his ankle.” And then there are these quotes from right after the Steelers signed Green, in which the tight end denies having been concussed at all last season:
So did Green mislead the Steelers? It’s not uncommon for players to downplay their concussion symptoms, but it’s also possible for post-concussion syndrome to last for months or even years, even if the headaches come and go.
Dr. Melissa Leber, the Director of Emergency Department Sports Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital and Mount Sinai-Roosevelt Hospital, did not evaluate Green, but she was able to speak in general terms about the nature of concussions and post-concussion syndrome. She told me over the phone that “with each successive concussion a more minor impact can cause him to develop the symptoms again.” This impact, Dr. Leber explained, could have been as simple as Green bumping his head or sustaining some minor whiplash doing some routine activity.
Additionally, Dr. Leber said, the symptoms can last longer with each successive concussion.
There’s a parallel here with another Pittsburgh athlete, Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Back in January 2011, Crosby sustained two concussions in five days, at which point he began to experience symptoms that lasted for nearly a year. At one point, after many months, Crosby even resumed strenuous workouts, only to have to scale them back a short time later because the headaches returned. Crosby has since made a full recovery, but wasn’t finally cleared to play until late November 2011.
Green, meanwhile, reportedly had “no red flags” resulting from his previous concussions when he went through the free agency process in March. But, as Dr. Leber explained, post-concussion symptoms can come and go quickly, and there is no objective test that can tell anyone exactly how long post-concussion syndrome will last. Green, like Crosby, will just have to wait it out.
Ex-Deadspinner Dom Cosentino is a reporter and writer. He’s on Twitter @domcosentino.