C.J. Brown was more concerned with the pain in his ribs than the fog in his head.
In the minutes and hours after what he called a “gruesome” hit from Florida State nose guard Jacobbi McDaniel and linebacker Christian Jones, the Terrapins football quarterback received X-rays of his ribs. He didn’t feel like himself, but he expected it to subside.
But after the team flew back from Tallahassee, Fla., on Oct. 5, the headaches started and the concussion symptoms began to worsen. The next morning, he failed medical tests, and though he said he felt fine Monday, he would miss Saturday’s 27-26 win over Virginia.
In the past, he may have tried to push more to play, Brown said Tuesday afternoon in his first meeting with the media since the hit. Football players are supposed to play through pain, and at some point in the season, it seems as if every player has some sort of wrap, bandage or brace accessorizing his uniform.
But with more information on concussions being brought to the forefront, Brown has come to realize it’s not worth the risk.
“You never want to mess with the brain,” Brown said. “It’s very important to yourself. I just wanted to make sure that I was fully clear. I knew that Saturday and Sunday, I wasn’t.”
Injuries are a part of the game, as every player will say when a teammate goes down. After the Terps’ loss to Florida State, it was Brown. This week, it was outside linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, lost for the season with a pectoral injury.
Concussions, though, are different. The NFL recently settled a lawsuit with former players for $765 million. More and more research is being done on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that’s been found in former players. It’s become a topic of mainstream conversation.
And Brown has taken notice.
“It’s definitely not something to mess around with, especially with all these guys that are coming back from the NFL saying they’re having problems long-term and they need assistance or they’re just not themselves,” Brown said. “I think it’s definitely something that needs to be brought to the forefront. People definitely have a lot more awareness now than they did in the past.”
Coach Randy Edsall said last week that the Terps have a concussion protocol, and the team’s medical staff decides whether to clear players for games. Brown was cleared to play Sunday, and Edsall said he’ll start Saturday’s contest at Wake Forest.
Brown spent the week leading up to the Virginia game participating in a battery of tests, including conditioning and cognitive tests to compare to a baseline set when he entered the program.
“I’m more educated on concussions and things like that and the whole, ‘They want you to do all these tests and things like that,’” Brown said. “In the past, it was more of you could probably lie out of the situation. You could say, ‘Yeah, it’s just a headache, but I’m fine. I can do all these things.’ There’s just a lot more precautions now.”
Despite the change in views on injuries and concussions in football, Brown said there’s still a ways to go before the awareness is fully integrated into the culture.
And above all, Brown tries to keep his future in mind.
“Players would still try to do it because that’s just their personality, but in all honesty and all reality, this is your brain,” Brown said. “This is a very important part of your body. You don’t want to mess this up, and only being 22 years old, I still have a long life ahead of me. I wasn’t going to mess around with that.”