Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Don't rush, DeSean

Why Jackson's return from a concussion could take a while.

Don't rush, DeSean

DeSean Jackson said he was knocked out when Falcons´ Dunta Robinson hit him. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)
DeSean Jackson said he was knocked out when Falcons' Dunta Robinson hit him. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)

DeSean Jackson, 9 days removed from the concussion he suffered in a horrific collision with the Falcons' Dunta Robinson, was on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live" on Tuesday afternoon. It was the first interview he had done, post-concussion. In the middle of the interview, it dawned on me that Jackson had not yet been asked if he'd been knocked out on the field. Well, he said he was.

That changes things. For everyone who seems so certain that Jackson will be returning to the field for the Eagles' next game against Indianapolis (following this Sunday's bye week), I say maybe. I say maybe at best.

Much was made on Monday night of coach Andy Reid saying that Jackson had passed a concussion test. Well, after probing Jackson a little bit on DNL, it sounds as if he passed the very preliminary baseline test that is just the beginning of the stringent protocol for returning that Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder has devised. And it took 8 days for Jackson to pass that test. By comparison, after their recent concussions, quarterback Kevin Kolb and linebacker Stewart Bradley both passed much more quickly, in a day or 2.

Jackson was asked if he had yet been on a treadmill during the DNL interview. He said he had not, that he had just done some weight lifting so far and that he was taking it slowly because there is so much time before the next game. And that's all fine. But after passing that baseline test, there are five stages of activity tests that the player must pass, symptom-free, under Burkholder's protocol. Getting on the treadmill is the second step. This suggests Jackson is only at the start of the process.

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From a column this summer in which I interviewed Burkholder:

The first phase involves easy exercise in a quiet room, with no impact. So the player rides a bicycle slowly, raising his heart level to only 30 or 40 percent of its maximum. Then he sits on a table and does leg lifts and some stretching. If he can do that and remain symptom-free for 24 hours, the player moves to the next phase. The 24 hours is required at the end of each step. If a symptom pops up, he repeats the previous step.

In the next phase, the heart rate is raised higher, the bicycle is exchanged for a run or walk on a treadmill, some additional strength training is attempted, and the quiet room is now the team's gym (but when it is relatively empty). The third phase ups the ante further with more work in a normal gym environment, adding in video-game playing and also exercises that involve more head movement.

"On average, it takes 3 or 4 days to get through the first phase, then a day or 2 to get through the second," Burkholder said. "Then, the third phase, when you start moving their head, can be a while. That can mess them up. The fourth phase is more sports-specific stuff: run pass routes, pass sets [for linemen], get their heart rate up, more weightlifting. The fifth phase, we put them into a bit of contact - maybe a drill where they're butting up against each other, but not tackling. Late in the season, I have to hit them myself with [padded] clubs, just to jar them a little bit, just to see how they do."

All of which means, Jackson has a way to go. And while every player is different and every concussion is different -- and if we have not learned that in the last few years, we have not learned anything -- we now know that Jackson was knocked cold and so was Brian Westbrook, last year. Westbrook came back in 20 days and suffered a second concussion in his first game back. And, well, the Indianapolis game would be 21 days after Jackson was knocked out.

Again, every concussion is different and Burkholder's protocol is relatively new. If Jackson were to come back for the Indianapolis game, he would have passed a more rigorous set of tests than Westbrook did. All of that is good.

But we should all stop predicting. DeSean Jackson will be back when he is ready to be back -- and hopefully not a moment sooner.

 

 

Daily News Sports Columnist
About this blog
Rich Hofmann arrived at the Daily News in 1980 for a job whose status was officially designated as "full-time, temporary." A senior at Penn at the time, he was hired to fill in on the copy desk during a staff illness. The notion of him covering the Eagles or being a columnist did not exist in anyone's imagination. It was supposed to be six weeks and out, but he never left. It is only one of the reasons why so many people have concerns about him as a potential house guest. Rich has blogged the postseasons of the Flyers and Eagles. E-mail Rich at hofmanr@phillynews.com Reach Rich at hofmanr@phillynews.com.

Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist
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