MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett admitted Tuesday that not only had he suffered a concussion against Texas, but he had also hidden a concussion sustained two weeks earlier against Kansas State.
The first came on a first-quarter sack by K-State's Chaquil Reed on Oct. 26, a hit that didn't really look all that bad. Three plays later, Trickett scampered into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown. West Virginia managed just two field goals more and lost, 35-12.
Trickett's explanation of his concussion(s) recovery expressed a rather distinct internal conflict and said, in short, I'm only coming out of a game if someone else takes me out.
Here's the transcript, and I'll follow with thoughts:
Q: Is the recovery for a head injury more frustrating than a typical one?
Trickett: "It's more doctor diagnosis. It was the second one [concussion] in three weeks. I had one against Kansas State that I didn't tell anyone about. I played through it. Obviously, I would have tried to play through the Texas one if I wasn't completely unconscious. [laughs]
"The doctors held me out [against Kansas]. With the more information we're getting on concussions now, it was probably the smart thing to do since I had two in such a short period of time. With all the stuff that's coming out about it, it's scary but you can't really think about that. You've still got to be a tough guy."
Q: You realize that you could draw some pretty heavy criticism for admittedly hiding a head injury. In hindsight, do you defend or regret that decision?
Trickett: "Uh ... I was still able to function. If I wasn't able to function and I was hurting the team then I would have probably said no I shouldn't have done that which, shoot, who knows, I might have hurting the team.
"I'm never really going to pull myself out of a game. It's not in my DNA; it's not how I was raised. You've got to fight through things. Parents and doctors weren't necessarily happy about it. I do have to realize there is life after football, even though my life after football will still probably be football -- coaching. It's my decision, and I've got to make a smart decision for my health later on down the road."
Q: You fumbled twice in that game -- could you tell things were off?
"I definitely wasn't myself. It's part of it [the game]."
A few moments later, I stepped over to offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.
Q: Are you concerned that carrying a QB competition into the season might cause a player to ignore his own well-being and hide an injury in order to maintain starter status?
Dawson: "I'm not worried about it. Hopefully you're a smart enough player where if it's going to hurt the team, you tell people. Being a competitor, you try to stay in as much as possible. That's understandable.
"But at some point, it's Big Ol' Team and Little Bitty Ol' Me. You've got to understand that if it's detrimental to the team for you to be out there, that's not fair to the other 10 guys out there.
What Dawson didn’t mention, though, was the safety of the player, of the Little Bitty Ol’ Me. Two concussions in three weeks is, by any doctor’s measure, a dangerous sequence.
And I suppose that's what's concerning about this.
In this age of heightened awareness to head injuries in football, everyone playing at any level now should understand the danger. Trickett seems to understand it, but he's been conditioned to ignore it.
He said, “With all the stuff that's coming out about it, it's scary but you can't really think about that. You've still got to be a tough guy."
Wait, isn't that the exact answers doctors are praying players won't give? I've been to a few seminars on head injuries in football, and each expert is more fearful than the one before, and maybe this is why: even a smart, college-graduate starting quarterback in a power conference finds himself at a critical intersection and yet he truly isn't sure which is the right choice to make.
As you can see above, Trickett never did say whether he defended or regretted his decision. Well, he definitely didn't say he regretted it. His parents and doctors regretted it.
He said, "I'm never really going to pull myself out of a game. It's not in my DNA; it's not how I was raised. You've got to fight through things."
(These are all verbatim quotes straight from the source -- didn't edit or massage a single one.)
If football players are going to use that approach, well, the ongoing lawsuits are only going to get messier. It can't be on the coaches and trainers alone to identify head injuries and yank players at any time; the onus has to be on players to admit injury and accept that this is a true health concern.
It's perhaps equally concerning, too, that Dawson's answer had nothing to do with personal safety and educating the players to self-report injuries, because if that's not priority No. 1, that priority list needs serious re-arranging.
As a parting thought ... for Trickett to say that he'd have played through his second concussion, too, had he not been literally knocked unconscious is, well, just not OK. This isn't about being "a tough guy." Forget football, forget the concussions-in-football crusade. This is the life and health and brain of a 22-year-old kid.
Be careful, man.
To clarify: Not surprised Clint Trickett hid a concussion. That happens. Surprised he admitted it and defended it: http://t.co/vptDPRryQi— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) November 27, 2013