Former Pack receiver says he’s had about six concussions in NFL
November 21, 2009
RENTON, Wash. – Nate Burleson, who played college football at Nevada, has had about a half dozen concussions since he’s been in the NFL. At least he thinks so.
“After your head hits the ground you don’t always remember what’s happened,” the Seahawks’ veteran wide receiver said. “I’ve had six or seven since I’ve been in the league. It feels like I’ve had more, but I haven’t always told the trainers so I could keep playing.”
Fellow Seahawks Josh Wilson and Marcus Trufant each got knocked woozy last weekend, with Wilson face down and motionless for a moment before he jogged off. Both starting cornerbacks returned to finish the loss at Arizona, then were diagnosed with concussions.
Wilson hasn’t practiced since. He is doubtful to play Sunday at Minnesota, leaving Kelly Jennings the likely starter.
Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu has had concussions, but won’t say how many. He’s donating his brain to research after he dies.
All play for a team that has a doctor who is considered an expert in brain trauma, and which prides itself on having been one of the NFL’s first to conduct neurological testing in the preseason to better diagnose head injuries.
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“We have probably the finest doctor in the United States in Stan Herring, in terms of those situations,” Seahawks coach Jim Mora said Friday, after Wilson missed his third consecutive practice.
A new concussion law in Washington state sets out conditions for how head injuries are to be dealt with in sports. It was a crusade for Herring, the co-medical director of the Seattle Sports Concussion program, and the family of Zackery Lystedt.
Lystedt became a patient of Herring’s in 2006 after the Maple Valley, Wash., teenager returned to a middle-school football game following a concussion and sustained a life-threatening brain injury. He remains dependent on a wheelchair and around-the-clock care.
So how scary is it that Wilson and Trufant, who was briefly on his hands and knees after getting nailed against the Cardinals, both returned to finish the game?
“I think the adrenaline of the game kept him clear, which happens a lot of times,” Mora said of Wilson, whose head banged into the leg of Arizona running back Beanie Wells and then the turf. “When you get a chance to settle down it kind of settles in on you.”
Trufant said he just had “a little ding” from taking a knee to his head on a fourth-and-1 play. He called it “being a little cloudy” before the fog lifted after a couple minutes, and said he was held out of practice Wednesday as a precaution. Trufant expects to start Sunday, giving Seattle (3-6) at least one of its two starting cornerbacks against Brett Favre and the high-flying Vikings (8-1)
“You just leave it up to the trainers,” the 2007 Pro Bowl selection said. “I can think a lot of things (on whether to go back in), but I’m not a doctor.”
The Seahawks’ team physician is a rehabilitation doctor by trade. That, according to Dr. Mark Lovell – a longtime member of the NFL’s medical committee on concussions who pioneered the use of neuropyschological testing that is now mandatory for all players – means Herring “is more trained in brain rehabilitation than most guys” on team medical staffs.
Seattle was one of the first teams to adopt standardized concussion assessments, in 1995, one year after the Pittsburgh Steelers did.
Herring and the Seahawks have long tested before each season to find a player’s baseline data on normal brain functioning. The tests give a team a player’s normal reaction times and other results. Once he approaches those results following a concussion, the team could clear him to play.
In 2007, the NFL made baseline testing mandatory as part of all training-camp physicals.
Yet Seahawks players say they aren’t consumed by the possibility of head injuries.
“You hardly hear anyone ever talk about a concussion, unless you are just really affected by it,” cornerback Roy Lewis said. “Then again, if you are really affected by it, everyone can clearly see you have a concussion. You are walking around like you are drunk.”
Tatupu says that’s a small price to pay for his riches and his career.
“Hey,” he said last month, “you’re going to die of something, too.”