Tim Tebow’s head fuels concussion debate

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The debate over sports-related concussions has resurfaced this week, thanks to the high-profile controversy over whether or not Florida quarterback Tim Tebow should play next week (The No. 1 Gators will face the No. 4 LSU Tigers in the Oct. 10 game), despite his recent concussion.

Experience

The Gainesville Sun‘s Kevin Brockway interviewed ESPN football analyst Merrill Hoge to get an idea of the long-term ramifications of Tebow’s decision this week. Hoge is still suffering the residual effects of the concussions that forced him out of the NFL in 1994 after nine years as a fullback with the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The key quote comes when Hoge, who was once cleared to play after a concussion after a token over-the-phone check, speaks with the clarity of experience:

high school tackle

Photo by Eagle102.net via Flickr

“This is not a decision that should be made by the University of Florida, Urban Meyer or even Tim Tebow himself,” Hoge said. “This is a medical decision that should be made strictly by doctors.”

Asked what advice he would give Tebow, Hoge said the former Heisman Trophy winner should become as educated as possible about his condition and be honest about the symptoms he’s feeling.

“What’s one more week to sit out when you are talking about the rest of your life,” Hoge said.

Ethics

Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick, meanwhile, tackles the ethics involved in the decision facing Tebow’s coach, Urban Meyer. He doesn’t seem impressed by Meyer’s actions.

Meyer says that a decision on when Tebow returns rests solely with the university’s medical team. Tebow would be wise to consult an independent doctor whose salary isn’t paid by a university that reaps millions from its powerhouse football program.

Meyer is giving himself plausible deniability. If Tebow plays against LSU and gets knocked senseless, the coach can say that he relied on the expertise of the medical professionals.

According to Soshnick, it’s up to Meyer to “protect Tebow from himself,” and keep the selfless player from trading short-term glory for potential lifelong damage.

Science

Finally, the concussion debate has been amplified by stories like Alan Schwarz’ report in The New York Times that an NFL-commissioned study found that “Alzheimer’s disease or similar memory-related diseases appear to have been diagnosed in the league’s former players vastly more often than in the national population — including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49.” See the full study here.

For the other side of the story, see NFL Executive Vice President Harold Henderson’s USA Today opinion piece, in which he attempts to make the case that “The NFL has played a leading role for years in advancing the prevention, treatment and awareness of concussions in sports.”

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