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Meyer Needs To Set A Deadline For Tebow's Return

Tim Tebow visited with teammates Tuesday and took a test to determine his brain function and balance. Urban Meyer says that Tebow is day-to-day, which is the only way to tell how severe Tebow's concussion is. The longer the symptoms persist, the less likely it is that Tebow plays at LSU. Meyer said that Tebow is still suffering from headaches, which puts Tebow out until next Tuesday in terms of practice (assuming Florida is using the standard of a week without symptoms clears a player for activity). It is possible that we might not know until next Saturday if Tebow is allowed to play, as Meyer has not committed to a deadline. This puts Florida in the position of assuming that Tebow's brain heals like everyone else's. It also increases the odds of Tebow not admitting symptoms, as he will want to play if Meyer keeps that possibility open. Meanwhile, John Brantley has to assume he is starting against LSU, even with every Gator assuming Tebow will be back.

It is a coincidence that Tebow's brain injury comes the same week that a study revealed that NFL players are 19 times more likely than normal men 30-49 years old to develop dementia. The New York Times calls it the first time the NFL has admitted a link between the punishment a NFL player takes and future brain illness. The Times report also includes this line;

The findings could ring loud at the youth and college levels, which often take cues from the N.F.L. on safety policies and whose players emulate the pros. Hundreds of on-field concussions are sustained at every level each week, with many going undiagnosed and untreated.

To be fair, the UF medical staff says this is Tebow's first concussion at Florida. Tebow's high school coach says Tebow did not suffer a concussion at Nease. But, how many blows are "undiagnosed and untreated"? Unlike the NHL's program to address concussions (which has trickled down to youth hockey; I knew guys with a headache who were held out in case they had a mild concussion), the NFL has no standard length of time a player is out. The NHL program can even estimate a player's return based on other players of their size and ethnic background. The NFL and college football have no such program. It's not that teams are lazy; it is that football players look at concussions as part of the game. This AP story with NFL players urging Tebow to sit out has this line from Ryan Stamper;

To make his point, the fifth-year senior recalled two concussions he suffered playing at First Coast High in Jacksonville. Both times, Stamper couldn't remember the play, the hit, how he got back to the sideline or much about the rest of the game. Both times he returned to play the following week.

"There's just a part of your life," Stamper said, "that you don't remember."

Getting injured is part of the risk of playing a contact sport, but not at the risk of future injury. It seems to me like Sam Bradford's shoulder injury is being handled more cautiously than Tebow's brain injury, and that concerns me as a person, not as a football fan. If Bradford returns against Miami and Tebow against LSU, both would have sat out two weeks, with very different injuries.

It seems to me, to protect Tebow and to properly prepare the team, Meyer has to put a deadline on Tebow having symptoms. If Meyer does not, and Tebow says he is healthy before he really is (remember, a lot of symptoms are self reported), Tebow is in danger of a second concussion. Even worse for the Gators' season, UF would have prepared to play a game with Tebow, only to watch him have to be removed from another game. Meyer has to make a decision now. The recovery of a concussion is not like the recovery of a knee sprain. Meyer said as much on Tuesday. But he needs to put actions to his words and take a stand to prepare his team and protect his players.