As the NFL learns more about concussions, it’s becoming more and more clear that it’s not always easy to spot a guy who has one.
The latest example comes from Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis, who was checked for a concussion during a Week Seven loss to the Vikings, traveled to London for the Week Eight game against the Chiefs, woke up Thursday of that week with a headache and was listed on the injury report as having an illness, was listed as probable on the injury report, woke up Sunday with headaches, and was scratched from the lineup.
The Lions stuck with the “illness” label until the team returned to the United States and an independent neurologist determined that Mathis had a concussion.
“Our team physician didn’t think it was affiliated — the headaches were affiliated with [concussion],” Lions trainer Kevin Bastin said Wednesday, via MLive.com.
“[Mathis] got hit late in the [Week Seven] game,” Bastin said. “We took him inside with our team physician and the unaffiliated neurospecialist on the sideline. He was examined, and went through the whole testing process, and it was determined he did not have a concussion. Came in the next day for our typical day on a Monday, still no symptoms. Completely clear. We traveled to London, he woke up Thursday morning with a light headache, as he described it, and those were his only symptoms. He practiced light Thursday and Friday, and then woke up Sunday morning with his headaches again. We determined to keep him out of the game, and when we got back here last week, he still had light headaches. We had him evaluated again by our team doctors, and the independent neurologist, and we decided to put him on the concussion protocol.”
Although teams often are scrutinized when it comes to spotting concussions because they want players to be able to play, players typically wants to play, too. Rarely (if ever) does an NFL player pester the team doctor about the potential implications of a “light headache,” since the player knows that talking enough about having headaches will result in the player talking his way to the sidelines — and opening the door for his replacement to take his job permanently.
Still, in a sport that features plenty of head contact, it would be nice to think that concussion ranks much higher on the list of suspected causes of player headaches than tumor.