Every NFL team is following strict procedures regarding contact and length of practice during this lockout-shortened preseason, and for all the complaining some may do about the inconvenience of the process, there was a very frightening reminder of the importance of close-monitoring during the Philadelphia Eagles' Wednesday practice in Bethlehem, Pa.
According to Philly.com, Patterson started shaking violently and fell to the ground just as the defensive linemen were getting ready for one-on-one drills. Head coach Andy Reid was nearby and started yelling for the medical staff. Patterson fell to the ground and was unconscious for a short time before regaining consciousness and starting to move his extremities. It took an ambulance about 10 minutes to get to the scene -- in the interim, rookie first-round guard Danny Watkins, who's been a volunteer firefighter for years, helped the team's medical staff attend to Patterson. Watkins helped Patterson onto a stretcher, and the ambulance left for Lehigh Valley Hospital about five minutes later.
During the time that Patterson was on the ground, several teammates were obviously and visibly upset -- kneeling, holding hands, praying, and crying.
After practice, the team told the media that Patterson had a seizure that lasted about four minutes, but that he was now 'OK,' fully conscious, and was joking with hospital staff. A team source told Philly.com that dehydration may have been behind the seizure, though that has not yet been confirmed.
JR Ricket, Patterson's agent, released a statement which indicated that his client "in no pain and [is] doing well. We are very grateful for everyone's prayers and support. Mike will be back at practice as soon as the doctors clear him."
The 6-foot-1, 300-pounds Patterson was the Eagles' first-round pick in 2005, and he amassed 37 tackles and two sacks last season.
Since the practice-related death of Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer in July of 2001, the NFL has taken steps to curb practices that may be too long or too violent. Stringer's passing, which was specifically related to heatstroke (his core body temperature was 108.8 degrees) prompted his widow, Kelci, to partner with Gatorade and the NFL to start the Korey Stringer Institute to make more people aware of the dangers of dehydration and heatstroke.
Dr. Bob Murray, who ran the Gatorade Sports Science Institute from 1985 to 2008 and currently works as the Resident Sports Science Consultant for POWERADE, recently had this to say in a recent statement about heatstroke and practice considerations in this compressed timeframe: "Dehydration can affect mental focus, such as one's attention span and decision-making. Could this make it tougher to implement a new playbook? Sure, that's one reason why teams like to run mini-camps earlier in the year — the moderate temperatures make it easier to teach and retain information. The players that actively hydrate themselves will put themselves in position to perform physically and focus mentally."
Dr. Murray, who recently consulted with the Houston Texans about these exact concerns, said that practices must be modified, and hydration is a major issue — even more than usual. "Coaches WILL have to modify practices differently, particularly early on," he said. "Some players will be prepared physically, but on the other end of the spectrum, you'll have guys that spent the lockout enjoying the air conditioning, working out infrequently in the heat or not working out enough to raise their body temperature high enough to simulate the environment faced in training camp.
"Those are the guys you worry about. Even working out in a gym won't cut it — physiologically, you need to prepare yourself [for] working out in the heat."