It’s like throwing salt water on live circuits. That’s the way a local head trauma expert describes a concussion’s impact on the brain.
“Just because you look normal, that doesn’t mean your brain is normal,” said Dr. Doug Smith, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania and head of the Penn Center for Brain Injury and Repair.
Smith has never evaluated Brian Westbrook, but he’s studied concussions and their impact on the brain for 19 years. If he were in Westbrook’s cleats, he wouldn’t play again.
“If it were me, I wouldn’t go back in,” he said. “I don’t think I’d feel safe putting who I am on the line.”
Westbrook has had two concussions this season. Yesterday, after passing a battery of tests, the running back returned to practice.
“I don’t think I’m scared to play the game of football,” said Westbrook, adding that he never considered retirement. “I’m more concerned about how things will happen for me in the future.”
Like forgetting. Post-traumatic amnesia is a side effect that can be felt for years. New studies on the brains of NFL players, like boxers, have shown Alzheimers-like depressions. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict the future. Even some tests, like ImPACT, can easily be memorized and faked.
“There’s no acute treatment — no therapy or drug — that fixes everything,” Smith said. “If you’ve had a few concussions, you should be concerned.”
Listening to Andy Reid, it’s unlikely Westbrook will play Sunday — maybe he should never suit up again.