Watching Luke Kuechly go down last night was one of the most bizarre sports injuries I’ve ever witnessed. It’s up there with the Marcus Lattimore Leg for me. Seeing such a revered player go down and stay down in primetime is never easy, but last night was worse. Kuechly goes down, and then just lays on the field in excruciating pain. The announcers are showing slow motion replays and talking about the way his knee got bent up. The camera focuses back on Kuechly, who’s now sitting up, but is still sobbing with a clear shortness of breath. My thoughts watching were, “That’s a knee, and that’s the season.” Five minutes later he gets carted off the field and holds back tears the whole way. A knee for sure.
Nope. Not a knee. Instead, under league concussion protocall this morning. When I first saw the headline flash across the ticker I immediately thought it was some kind of coverup. Nothing about the way he acted last night said concussion. Pain. Shortness of breath. Tears? But after thinking about it, there’s literally not one reason in the entire world to coverup a knee injury with a brain injury. Not in this political climate. So here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: Luke Kuechly has had a TON of concussions.
There are two ways to react to having a concussion. One is when your brain is bouncing around in your skull but you’re still conscious. That reaction is like, “Oh my God! Oh my God! I’m seeing parts of the light spectrum I’m not supposed to! Take me baackkk!” The other reaction is when your brain trampolined so hard your consciousness just says screw it and you turn into a walking Woody doll with three repeating lines. “What happened? Where am I? What happened?” That’s it. Those are the only two ways to react to a concussion. Unless you’re on your one millionth one. Like Luke Kuechly was last night.
As soon as Kuechly’s brain started to gyrate, he immediately began processing the information soberly. Comparable to when you drink a pint of liqour and your brain tells you that you’re drunk, but it informs you in a very clear and sober way because your alcohol tolerance is too high.
As he watched new stars flash across the Charlotte night sky, he immediately registered the fact that he had a moderate to serious brain injury that was going to result in two missed games and a significantly increased chance of CTE in later life. Just like your favorite movie star ignoring the pain of a fatal bullet to the chest in order to offer a vitally important, yet ultimately incomplete sentence to the film’s protagonist, Luke Kuechly saw passed the symptoms of concussion and instead saw the repercussions of one.
So last night when Kuechly went down, rather than shortness of memory, we saw shortness of breath. Instead of seeing a player asking, “Where am I?” we saw a player ask, “Where will I be? And what does that mean for myself, my family, and this organization?”
To answer your question Luke, it doesn’t look great. For anyone. But please, get back soon(ish). We miss you already.
P.S. To everybody about to say, “Caleb, even though he’s been one of the most violent players in one of the most violent sports for the last 10 years, this is only his third concussion: LOL!