If you were armed with the knowledge that an NFL player suffered a stroke on the field because of a hit, you'd figure it would be apparent what happened when you saw the replay. MMQB.com reported that Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen suffered a stroke on the field and is retiring as a result, and the frightening part is the hit in question looks like any other NFL play.
If a hit caused a dead spot on an NFL player's brain, as it did with Allen, it should be clear, right? The kind of hit that looked like it resulted in a bad concussion but turned out to be much worse.
That's not the case with Allen. He never even paused to go down to a knee or had any reaction really.
MMQB's excellent story by Robert Klemko outlined the series in which Allen apparently took the hit that gave him a stroke. In the first play from scrimmage after halftime in Week 15 against Buffalo, Allen hit center Eric Wood, who was trying to block him. Although Allen said he felt "something flash" after hitting Wood, he didn't lose consciousness and went back to the huddle. If you look at the replay of the game, there's nothing about that play that stands out as unusual. A center and a linebacker meeting on a run play. No big deal. Allen shows no reaction. But apparently that was the hit that caused the injury.
Allen stayed in. On second and third downs, Allen drops into coverage. On second down he congratulated cornerback Alan Ball for a tackle. On third he made a tackle. And again, even after studying Allen through those plays, nothing seems unusual.
That's the scariest part of Allen's story. It wasn't one big hit. Even after multiple viewings, it seems like a normal play.
Allen said he started seeing double on the sideline in the second half, but went back in and finished the game. When headaches persisted on Monday, he informed the team what happened. An MRI showed that he had a stroke, MMQB wrote. A small part of his cerebellum was inactive. Three neurosurgeons confirmed the injury, the type of stroke that has never happened to a pro football player before, as far as they knew. It was the kind of injury seen in a small percentage of high-speed automobile accidents, MMQB wrote.
And here's the quote from Allen that continues to haunt the NFL, as it rides the fine line of promoting concussion safety and awareness while also contradicting that with actions like not guaranteeing player contracts:
“If I could go back in time I would do it differently,” Allen says. “Being in it and knowing how I felt in that moment, the game feels so serious. You’re thinking, I can’t come out, because what if someone else comes in and takes my job? Or they need me out there, and I can’t come out because I really want to win. But you can’t do that, and I learned that the hard way.”
The NFL doesn't want players to lie about head injuries, but this type of attitude will be hard to eliminate.
Allen, 27, is done with football. He was released last Thursday by the Jaguars because of a "failed physical." It's a sad and scary story, and hopefully Allen has a normal life as a father and husband. About the only good news is the injury wasn't worse.
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