If you have a minute at lunch today, swing by MMQB and read Robert Klemko's piece on Russell Allen, the Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker who suffered a stroke in last year's Week 15 game against the Buffalo Bills. It's another sad story in a long line of sad stories about the hell America's favorite game can wreak on the body and brain. Here are some nuggets:
It went dark on Dec. 15, 2013. Just after halftime in a Week 15 game against the Bills, Allen strafed across the hash marks in pursuit of a ballcarrier before running into center Eric Wood several yards downfield. The two collided face-to-face, dead center from Allen's perspective, and Allen walked away buzzed as he casually shrugged his shoulders.
"It was strange because it was so routine," Allen says. "We hit, I got off the block, no big deal. I felt something flash—like they say when you get your bell rung. I didn't lose consciousness. I walked back to the huddle and finished the drive."
Allen actually went on to finish the game, playing through double vision and a headache as the game went on. He thought something was wrong with his eye, but eventually went home without seeing attention. The next day, his head was still pounding, so he went to the team doctor. He got an MRI, and found out that he suffered a stroke.
But the results were conclusive: a small portion of Allen's brain was inactive. Doctors told Allen it could have been much worse, especially since he went back on the field and risked other jarring collisions. As it was, he had trouble holding onto dishes, breaking several—a symptom consistent with a cerebellum injury.
He saw three neurosurgeons in the next three months, and one finally told him what happened: Allen suffered "a carotid artery dissection, a tear in the layers of the artery wall that supplies oxygen to the brain—an injury that occurs in a small percentage of high-speed motor vehicle accidents." He was advised never to play again.
Klemko's piece is great, because it delves not into the injury itself but the "no snitching" culture that permeates the league. The gladiator attitude is easy to dismiss as so much dick swinging, but many of these athletes—like Allen—have families to feed, bills to pay, and so on. Head injuries are difficult to detect, and as Allen said, things like double vision and wooziness are a common aspect of the game and often overlooked. Be sure to read the entire story.