Michael Oher posted on Instagram an image of his prescribed medications for what appears to be still the ill-effects of the concussion that ended his season last year. The Instagram post, which has now been removed, demonstrates that the health concerns surrounding concussions in the NFL are very real, especially for Oher.
Oher has still yet to be cleared from the concussion protocol and his status with the Panthers still remains a mystery. Dave Gettleman, Carolina's general manager, reported Oher as "doing real football workouts" in March. Oher did not participate in voluntary OTAS, despite nearly the entire team's involvement in what seems to be a loose use of the word "voluntary" these days. Ron Rivera, the team's head coach, has been particularly vague about Oher's status, stating he hadn't heard from Oher. In the last couple of days, rumors have surfaced that Oher is out of shape in addition to being uninvolved with the team.
Yesterday's Instagram post (which we will not feature on this site out of respect for Michael Oher) reminds that the nature of Oher's injury was more serious than getting one's bell rung. It reminds that what was dismissed in the past as "getting one's bell rung" actually means brain injury, and that's serious.
Concerning the severity of this type of brain injury, researcher Alison Stevens wrote, "People with concussions experience all types of symptoms, including forgetfulness, headache, dizziness, fuzzy vision and sensitivity to noise...Symptoms of a concussion can last for less than a day or persist for weeks — even months. Two or more concussions put a person at risk of developing life-long problems."
Repeated injury to the brain can result in chronic traumatic encepathathy (C.T.E), which most believe leads to "debilitating memory and mood problems." Dara Bahk, who wrote on links between C.T.E. and suicide, reports that "During the first stage, symptoms are still innocent– merely some disorientation and headaches. However, as it progresses, CTE can cause memory loss, changed and erratic behavior, poor judgement, dementia, vertigo, tremors, depression, escalated thoughts of suicide and so forth."
Most notably, C.T.E. has often been cited to the suicide of linebacker Junior Seau. He's just the most well-known of several players who remind that C.T.E and recurrent brain trauma is a very real and serious issue facing many NFL players.
I want to be clear, I have no knowledge of the health condition that Michael Oher is facing outside of the reports about the concussion suffered last season. His remaining in the concussion protocol is concerning. His post about the medications he is taking for the continued ill-effects from this injury is worrisome, not because he is missing football or potentially may not return to the Panthers, but because he is an individual facing some very serious health issues.
I can only hope that the Carolina Panthers, his former teams, and the NFL will use all of their resources in helping Michael Oher face these challenges moving forward. This may not be one of those things where the team or the league simply needs to be available for Oher. It may be time to actively reach out and demonstrate that this is something they care about more than because Oher has a business relationship with the league and team, but because it is just the right thing to do if they are genuine our concern for player health and safety.
By Tony Dunn
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