I really appreciate when the Eagles bring out head trainer Rick Burkholder, it gives fans an opportunity to understand more about a very opaque part of the game, injuries. As we see with teams like the Patriots, there are outright lies put out by NFL teams about how injured their players are. So I really do appreciate the Eagles openness, particularly when it comes to concussions.
That said, there is an element of knowing how the sausage is made at work. Burkholder's description of LeSean McCoy's concussion symptoms is downright scary.
"As far as LeSean [McCoy] goes, LeSean's got symptoms right now; still has symptoms today [Friday]. He's got a headache. He's got periodic dizziness with exertion. So, we're not exercising him, but if he goes up and down the steps too fast or tries to pick up his baby, that kind of thing, he gets a little fuzzy. It's not nearly as bad as it was in Washington, but he's still there. [He's] very fatigued. He's got some sleep issues where he sleeps a lot and then he's awake and then he can't get back to sleep, that kind of thing. One of the things that he complains about is sensitivity to noise, so just noise in general is bothering him. He's foggy and he's slowed down. Currently, he's in phase one, although we're not ready to exercise him yet until symptoms diminish."
The fact that even a week later he can't sleep well or even pick up his child is really sad. I get that these guys know the risks more now than ever and they're well compensated for taking those risks, but the reality of what they go through is still hard to hear.
I suppose the positives you can take from Burkholder's press conference are that this organization does take concussions very seriously and that as bad as things look for McCoy at the moment, they could turn around quickly. Burkholder explained how the severity of a concussion this week doesn't necessarily predict anything about next week. The nature of concussions is that symptoms could be gone overnight. Then again, they could linger for weeks.
If you're interested in learning more about the process the Eagles take concussed players through, I've included Burkholder's explanation below.
"First of all when somebody gets a concussion on our team they have to pass certain criteria before they can ever get back to playing. The first thing is that they have to pass an ImPACT test. Some kind of neurological evaluation that the NFL requires. We use ImPACT. That's a pass or fail thing so for them to get back on the field they have to pass that. They have to see an independent neurologist or neurosurgeon. They have to be cleared by them. They have to be cleared by our team physician, Dr. Gary Dorshimer, who has a whole set of tests that he does on the sideline and as we progress.
"Then the five phase rehab program that keeps coming up [and guys ask], ‘What phase are these guys in?' That's kind of our rehab program and the five phases are: In the first phase, they're either resting or getting ready to exercise, and the exercise portion of it is very low key. Like 30 to 40 percent of their target heart rate or their max heart rate on a bike. They're doing exercise on a table like straight-leg lifts, stuff like that. Once they get through that phase without any symptoms, so they do that [and] they don't get a headache, don't get dizzy or anything like that, they can move on to phase two. Phase two is 40 to 60 percent of their heart rate. They do a little bit more dumbbell work. They do some balance work where they're not changing their head position. Phase three you jump it up to almost 80 percent of their heart rate so they're in a good, full sprint-mode type workout. They go back to normal lifting with our strength coaches, they're in a more noisy environment, that kind of thing. The fourth phase is [that] they return to football activity. They may be doing practice activity [or] skill work. They may do that with us, they may do that with the team but it's all non-contact. Then the fifth phase is [that] they return to contact. Now this time of year it is hard to get contact. We'll have them do football stuff and we may do some contact stuff with them in that fifth phase. That's how our program works and that's the couple criteria that they have to have."