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Column: Future foggy as the injury

Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 2:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 2:50 p.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

Note to self: Check in with Ryan Hermes every once in a while.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m scared for the young man. Nothing about his daily headaches guarantees that the laundry list of concussions he’s suffered will affect him in his adult life.

Just because he occasionally forgets to close his car door doesn’t mean he’s headed for a life of forgetfulness.

So his speech sometimes slurs. That doesn’t mean it will get worse.

But what if it does? Will hiding his injuries have been worth it?

That’s the proverbial scale that never quite balances out when it comes to concussions.

If an athlete is fundamentally sound, odds are they won’t suffer a concussion. On the slim chance a textbook athlete does get concussed, it likely won’t affect them long term.

But no matter how many probabilities you factor, no matter how narrow they are, one of the most vital organs hangs in the balance.

You only get one brain. Transplant, you ask? Not an option. You’ve been watching too many sci-fi flicks.

I’m still the new kid on the block in the SVM sports department, although I’m rapidly losing my right to that excuse. But I arrived midway through last season’s playoffs, so I haven’t yet taken in a Sterling football game. As a result, I haven’t seen Hermes play the game.

I’m told he was a beast, one hell of a teammate, and that no one has more heart. I’m also told he was a great wrestler, and that his fearlessness got him into trouble when he scored “takedowns” of running backs.

Hermes says if he could go back, he wouldn’t change a thing. Then again, a few minutes later, when asked what sports mean to him he says, “Nothing anymore, now that I’m not playing.”

It makes me wonder how a 28-year-old Hermes will feel about returning to play football in the playoffs when he was “80 percent,” in his personal assessment.

I hope that by that time his symptoms will be a thing of the past, allowing him to look back fondly. I’m not sold that they will be. He says he was still putting up with symptoms from the football concussions when he suffered his first during the baseball season.

It makes you wonder – was Hermes ever fully healed? If not, the dreaded phrase “second-impact syndrome” comes into play.

Google the phrase “football concussion death,” and you can read all about SIS and the perils of a bruised brain suffering a subsequent blow. Even the mildest grade of concussion can result in SIS.

Right now, it’s too soon to ask Hermes if he’d go back and do anything differently and expect a straight answer. After years of guarding the truth about his injuries, it’s a tough habit to break. It’s a process, and a rather young one. It’s been mere weeks since he was told he could never play sports again.

So I plan to check in with him down the road. For the moment, he might not be very happy that I’ve given you a peek behind the curtain. Not to mention my honesty about how concerned I am for his livelihood. Hopefully I’m wrong in speculating so long term.

Please, God, tell me I’m wrong.

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To read more from our special series on sports concussion, please check out The Hidden Injury project page on saukvalley.com. Click here to visit.

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