After Sidney Crosby’s head injury, everything was supposed to have changed in the world of sport concussions. But then on Sunday, Calgary Stampeders quarterback Drew Tate told a television interviewer that he couldn’t remember anything about the first half. And then he ran out on the field and played a spectacular second half.
It was as if nothing had changed. There was no need to protect a player’s brain when it was at high risk. Not if the game hung in the balance.
And concussion-denial was as alive as ever. “I do believe I can tell when I look into someone’s eyes if they are concussed or not,” said offensive co-ordinator Dave Dickenson.
We emailed that quote to Toronto neurosurgeon Charles Tator, an international leader in brain injuries in sport. Here’s what he said: “It’s not an easy thing to be able to recognize when someone is concussed. It certainly involves many more aspects of a person’s condition than just the pupils.” Memory matters, he said. It’s the second part of the Sport Concussion Assessment Test 2 – the test Calgary now claims its doctor applied to Mr. Tate at half-time.
Mr. Tate, who absorbed a vicious head shot in the first half, played astonishingly well. His clutch, last-minute touchdown pass won the game for Calgary, putting them in the Western final. That’s the brain for you. An athlete may not be able to remember the first half but he can still perform amazing feats. “We see that all the time in concussions,” Dr. Tator said. “One part of the brain is working and one part isn’t working. We don’t want people to play if one part isn’t working, because if you get another hit, that can be very damaging.” That’s what happened to Mr. Crosby, who missed more than a year of hockey. Much worse happened to Matt Dunigan, a former quarterback in the Canadian Football League, who suffers from post-concussion symptoms sixteen years after his retirement. He talks about it at conferences. It’s not like any of this is hidden any more.
Now Mr. Tate’s team says he was only joking; he didn’t want to remember his bad plays from the first half. Ask Sidney Crosby if he’s laughing. Ask Matt Dunigan.