Posted by Adam Jacobi
In the illustrious collegiate career of former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, one of the few scary moments was when the star QB suffered a concussion after being sacked during a 41-7 victory at Kentucky. Tebow was hit hard by Kentucky DE Taylor Wyndham, then his helmet struck his offensive lineman's knee during the fall, snapping his head forward violently and briefly knocking him out. Tebow would later throw up in the ambulance on his way out of the arena, another after-effect of the major concussion he received. That picture up top is Tebow immediately after suffering the concussion: the lights are on, but nobody's home. Might as well be an entirely different person.
What Tebow did NOT do, however, was miss any games; Florida had a bye week the following Saturday, and that gave Tebow two weeks to recover for the ensuing battle with LSU. He suited up, played well against a stout defense, and Florida won 13-3. Urban Meyer later told reporters that Tebow had been symptom-free for days and that he was cleared to play by team doctors, and all was well after that.
Funny thing, though; what the doctors and Meyer didn't know was that Tebow was still suffering from headaches up through pre-game warmups, and he admitted to hiding those symptoms in order to trick Meyer into letting him play. And lest one think this is an assumption made by a Florida-hating wacko with an axe to grind, that information came from the book Through My Eyes... authored by one Tim Tebow. Here's the relevant excerpt, via OnlyGators.com:
“I’m not going to let you play,” [Urban Meyer] said. He had tears in his eyes—he knew how much it meant to me.
“I have to play,” I responded.
He cut me off. “I keep asking myself, if you were Nate, would I let you play? I keep saying, ‘No.’ I can’t let you play.” He really wanted to win, but he was unwilling to take a chance with my health.
“But they cleared me, and I haven’t had headaches in days,” I countered. “There’s no reason for me not to play.”
“No, Coach. No headaches.” A headache had been starting to set in, but for all I know, it was from stress or a migraine, not the concussion. […]
I was praying in the locker room that the headache, which had been getting worse and worse, would simply go away. It didn’t. I could barely see by the end of the pregame warm-ups, it was hurting so badly.
It's important to note that Tebow says the headaches disappeared for good by kickoff, so they didn't affect his play in any way. So there's that. That doesn't mean Tebow should have been cleared to play, and Urban Meyer should have stood firmer in his refusal to play Tebow. I'm sure, had he known then what he knows now, that Meyer never would have let Tebow play that game, regardless of the fact that Tebow didn't suffer further injury. Heck, even if Tebow were legitimately symptom-free, he probably shouldn't have been playing yet at that point, like what Meyer suggested at first. CBSSports.com's Gregg Doyel excoriated Meyer for playing Tebow back when this all happened in '09; Tebow's revelations don't make Meyer look any better.
It's like this: if someone drives their car somewhere without wearing their seat belt, and that person arrives at the destination without having anything bad happen, it would be utterly insane to credit that decision as being wise or safe. It's still heinously and needlessly dangerous, and so is lying about head injuries just to get back in the game. That's probably what killed the Minnesota North Stars' defenseman Bill Masterson 42 years agoin the NHL, and that's probably a significant factor in the surfeit of dead former NFL players who are found to have suffered from CTE these days.
Still, there's always that stigma involved with not playing through pain, and (for the most part) rightfully so -- sports would be nearly unwatchable if someone ran off to the sideline every time they took a minor injury -- so it's often difficult for athletes to intellectually justify the recovery process of a concussion compared to every other rehabilition. Unfortunately, nature doesn't fit neatly into that "play through it" mentality when it comes to brain injuries, and that's why it's critically important for coaches to educate their athletes on proper protocol and why lying about head injuries is so dangerous. Tim Tebow's okay today, and that's obviously good to see, but if he had taken another concussion in that LSU game, man, there's no telling what kind of hell would have been unleashed on his brain -- and on Meyer.