Sampling the Michael Vick Concussion Coverage

Paging Writer Rob Trucks – Transcribed Dave Duerson ‘Oral History’ Interview for Deadspin
September 19, 2011
Introducing the ‘Senate Candidate Linda McMahon Archive’
September 20, 2011

What becomes most clear from a quick survey of the coverage of Michael Vick’s concussion in Sunday night’s nationally televised game is that sports journalists have little interest in reflecting on the world beyond sports. The most common thread of sociological insight by the boys in the green eyeshades is the relation between football and fantasy football – the Internet-facilitated game-within-the-game by which fans build teams with the interchangeable parts of athletes’ statistics. In the process, they “objectify” jocks, in the words of the sternest commentators. This we are supposed to take as a bad thing.

The lesson, however, does not extend to projecting the National Football League’s allegedly changed culture on concussion management to a broader understanding of public health.

Last September, when a Fox telecast showed Philadelphia linebacker Stewart Bradley wobbling from a concussion but going back into the game, New York Times concussion writer Alan Schwarz excoriated the NFL’s unenforced return-to-play protocols in a news analysis.

But the problem then was the league, not how we all perceived the league. This September Schwarz is no longer writing about traumatic brain injuries. And today’s Times story from Philadelphia, by Mark Viera, is football-centric: “As Fans Fret, Eagles Assess Vick’s Injury.”

At the thinking fan’s forum, the Slate-Deadspin NFL Roundtable – home of Stefan “Go Fuck Yourself” Fatsis – Josh Levin tried and failed to engage Barry Petchesky. Levin began with some pointed comments on the essential ungovernability of football’s violence:

Roger Goodell has futzed with the league’s rulebook in an attempt to ratchet down the game’s most-frightening-looking injuries: hits to the quarterback’s head, kill shots on defenseless receivers, blows to kamikaze special-teamers. Vick’s concussion, caused when an Atlanta Falcon knocked the quarterback backward into his beefy Eagles offensive lineman Todd Herremans, reveals the limitations of this exercise. For the NFL, this was the worst kind of head injury—one it’s impossible to spin as a consequence of rule-breaking.

Levin then asked Petchesky, whether he agreed “with the Concussion Blog’s Dustin Fink that NBC was spinning for the NFL in saying that the obviously woozy Vick had a ‘neck injury’.”

Petchesky didn’t bite. He dismissed NBC’s inaccurate reporting as football “gamesmanship, the equivalent of saying a hockey player has an ‘upper body injury’ to avoid putting a target on a guy who might return to the game.” That Vick didn’t return proved the NFL guidelines “worked to perfection.”


Irv Muchnick

1 Comment

  1. Black_Rose says:

    I don’t know if Michael Vick actually suffered a “concussion” or the vernacular definition of a “concussion” itself. I remember about 10 years ago, I was walking through an elementary school, and I walked into a pull-up bar since I didn’t see it. A metal bar hit my forehead as I was walking, but I don’t know the deceleration that my head; football players presumably have more force to their heads since they do not collide into stationary objects. I never lost consciousness (most concussions do not involve loss of consciousness) nor did I suffer any symptoms of a concussion such as amnesia, headaches, confusion, and sensitivity to light, and was immediately ambulant as I was able to walk away without any assistance.

    Like depression*, a concussion is usually diagnosed based on symptoms displayed by the patient, although the underlying disorder has a neurological basis operating at the molecular level; in the case of concussions, the brain is rendered vulnerable to excitotoxicity-induced neuron death due to a pernicious neurometabolic cascade**. Perhaps, I did suffer a concussion, but it is impossible to determine that since it was not possible to evaluate the metabolic events in my brain then. I hesitate to say that Vick suffered a concussion, as he doesn’t display any symptoms of a concussion***. However, I am not saying that Vick’s injury is innocuous as the cumulative impact of subconcussive blows also lead to neuropathology. Lastly, it would be of interest to know Vick’s history of concussions, since previous concussions reduces one’s resilience when one suffers subsequent concussions: for instance, the Twins’ Justin Morneau didn’t completely recover from a concussion sustained while sliding into the Blue Jays’ second baseman in order to break up a double-play during July 2010; Morneau has suffered another MLB concussion before and other concussions while playing hockey. While diving for a ball, Morneau is suddenly experiencing a relapse of post-concussive syndrome, even though he hasn’t hit his head during the play, and he is currently shutdown for the remainder of the season.


    For the video: (up to 1080 resolution). It’s kinda funny that poster used “Who Let the Dogs Out”.

Concussion Inc. - Author Irvin Muchnick