Mitchell: What's in a concussion?
Tebow lays unconscious
Tebow lays unconscious
Posted Sep 27, 2009

Concussions sound more appropriately grave when instead of saying "he got his bell rung", one correctly states, "he had his brain slam up against the wall of his skull, causing temporary impairment of neurological function and disrupting cellular processes in the brain." Oh...

Email Russ.

If you're reading CFN, you have by now seen at least a dozen times the jarring hit Kentucky's DE Taylor Wyndham laid on Florida's all-everything QB Tim Tebow. That severe collision (and the resulting blow to the back of his head) sent the Heisman winner into an ambulance and a night's stay for "observation" at a Lexington hospital.

At this point the severity of the concussion is unknown.

However, what is known is that in the violent world of football we so love, the term concussion itself is somewhat belittled. He "got his bell rung" and has to "shake the cobwebs out", right after he's through "seeing stars".

Concussions sound more appropriately grave when instead of saying "he got his bell rung", one correctly states, "he had his brain slam up against the wall of his skull, causing temporary impairment of neurological function and disrupting cellular processes in the brain for days/weeks afterward (depending on the grade of concussion (1-3))." In fact, the term Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) and concussion are used interchangeably.


Tebow's bulk/toughness has nothing to do with his brain. His brain doesn't lift weights. It doesn't do wind sprints, and it doesn't have a cape. At least we don't think it has a cape. So, knowing nothing more about the severity of his brain injury other than that it required Tebow to spend the night in a hospital, should the star QB avoid for a few weeks the brutal collisions our sport, and his position, require? (Particularly the way Tebow plays the position.)

If he's had a Grade III concussion, ab-so-frickin'-lutely. The American Academy of Neurology guidelines classify a Grade III concussion as any loss of consciousness caused by a blow to the head or by acceleration forces (think whiplash). And according to reports from the game, Tebow was knocked out.

His night in the hospital was a precautionary decision, and the correct one. Head injuries that are initially diagnosed as MTBI can lead to more serious, even deadly, conditions, like epidural hematoma - which caused the death of actress Natasha Richardson earlier this year.

Thankfully, we take MTBIs more seriously today than in years past. For example, in many high schools around the country, athletes are now required to avoid sports for months (plural) after being diagnosed with a single MTBI. It's not open to debate, and/or peer pressure. Though the question still remains: will Tebow sit out?

Sure, maybe the bye week (October 3).

We're talking about Tim Tebow here! His nickname is Superman for Pete's sake. So pencil him in against the LSU Tigers on October 10… IF it's left up to Tebow.

Unless, that is, a responsible adult literally forces him to sit. Someone would have to say, "Look Tim, we know the National Championship could very likely be on the line in Baton Rouge, but it's really not a healthy idea for you to get you noodle beaten on in Death Valley in 13 days, given you've just left the hospital with a brain injury."

Yes, playing football is not necessarily a "healthy" thing to do period. But like everything in life, we're weighing degrees. Playing football has inherent risk, which players and their families accept. That risk naturally increases significantly after a brain injury.


Like everyone who enjoys our sport, we wish Tebow a quick and full recovery, as we do every athlete injured each Saturday. That written, the next couple of weeks are going to be open for considerable debate. The treatment for MTBI is still mostly monitoring and rest. Usually, the symptoms diminish proportionate to the rest, and the patient is symptom-free within 3-4 weeks.

Without knowing more about the severity of Tebow's injury, there are only two things of which we are absolutely certain: First, whatever you think you've read in the past about concussions, that's about to be crushed by the avalanche of information about to roll your way. Perhaps that's a good thing.

And second, speaking of avalanches, your odds of having additional concussions increase after your first. And once that wave starts, it moves quickly.

Still, many an athlete has suffered through multiple brain contusions and done just fine after their playing days end. On a personal note, this writer has had four go-to-the-hospital concussions: one from basketball, two playing football and the last getting into my car (not my finest hour).

And me still write good fine. Today, anyway.

Moreover, each recovery was different. Each set/severity of symptoms unique. Only underscoring the difficulty of treating MTBIs. And for those still stuck on "size matters", like Tebow, at 6'4", ~240 lbs, I have long since been able to choose any ride at an amusement park.

Thus it is here the average college football fan (and coach?) hopefully starts asking questions. They are perhaps more heightened given who Tebow is, and the team he plays for, but this scenario repeats itself in college towns around the country weekly…

"MTBI has a mortality rate of virtually zero, right? So there's likely no reason to worry about him if the team doctors clear him to play. Right? What do you mean we really don't know?

"Even after all the attention/research devoted to the subject the past couple decades, you're telling me there's still more we don't understand about concussions and their long-term effects than that we do? Still, that means he could just as easily be fine, right? After all, just look how tough he is. And that next game is so important!"

Just rub some dirt on it.


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