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Sometimes the Heads Up Play is not to Play

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Concussions are no joke. Give Bobby the time that he needs.

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Houston Dynamo Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

It was a routine set piece. Perfectly executed by Houston. Never mind that Minnesota let in the entire Dynamo attack with no marking, the free kick was place perfectly. Most people just saw the ball in the back of the net and didn’t think about it. But I saw Bobby Shuttleworth laying on the ground. He wasn’t moving. I saw the way that he went to stop the cross, but I did not think he was hit. Then they showed the replay and his head snap back. I had to look away. There was no question in my mind that it was a concussion.

Then Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press tweets this:

There is no need to play Shuttleworth before he is ready.

Starting with the why, I will point out that John Alvbage played pretty well in emergency taking over for Shuttleworth. He should be fine playing this weekend against the Colorado Rapids. Yes, he made some mistakes in the first two games, but the defense in front of him did not give him much of a shot. (Well, they allowed the other team plenty of shots...)

The defense has been making some strides, so I expect Alvbage to play well in Shuttleworth’s absence.

I expect the team to make the right decision on what to do with Shuttleworth, but concussion protocol practice is not an exact science. FourFourTwo had a great in-depth analysis of MLS’ concussion protocol practice this past January. (I recommend reading it. Here is a link.) But no matter how much I trust the team, it is an injury that needs rest and time. Give Shuttleworth the time that he needs.

And even more so, plenty of athletes have had their careers cut short (or they were never the same) because of concussions and concussion symptoms:

Taylor Twellman

Houston Dynamo v New England Revolution Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Twellman is the posterboy for both concussions and American soccer. Taylor Twellman was one of the best strikers in the league, but had to retire early because of concussion like symptoms.

Twellman was the youngest player in MLS history to reach the 100-goal mark, but in the late 2000s, Twellman suffered a concussion that he didn’t seek treatment for and it likely was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He had suffered some concussions previously, but the one against the Galaxy had lasting effects.

There is no guarantee that treating this one concussion would have saved Twellman’s career, but it opened his eyes. Since retirement he has been one of the most visible faces in American soccer and has used his position to start the Think Taylor foundation to raise concussion awareness.

Justin Morneau

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Oh, Justin Morneau. You were amazing. (Is it clear that I grew up a huge Morneau fan?) The 2006 AL MVP was playing pretty consistently until midway through the 2010 season when he took a knee to the head in Toronto. It looked painful, but he got up and walked off. That collision seemed to affect the rest of his career.

What made it worse was Morneau was having arguably the best season of his career up until that game in Toronto. He was on pace to have more than 30 home runs, finished the year with a .345 batting average and had already driven in 56 runs. He was well on his way to eclipsing his MVP season and the Twins looked like they could very well have back-to-back MVPs (Joe Mauer in 2009, Morneau in 2010), and one concussion derailed that and a great career.

Minus one great year in Colorado, Morneau was never the same. Morneau missed essentially the entire second half of that 2010 season and played less than half of the 2011 season. Yes, in his first year in Colorado he hit .319, but he never reached 20 home runs in a season after 2009, and he was a bit player the rest of his career. Who knows what his ceiling could have been?

Eric Lindros

Eric Lindros #88  New York Rangers

Eric Lindros was one of the most prolific point getters in the ‘90s. Lindros pretty consistently put up over 70 points in a season and even eclipsed the century mark. That is, until he took a big hit from Hall of Fame defensemen (and current Minnesota Wild assistant) Scott Stevens in the 1999-2000 playoffs.

Now Lindros would go on to play until 2007, but it was never really the same. Lindros would eclipse 70 points just one more time. He would only average about 40 games played over his final 3 seasons and would only average 26 points.

Lindros is a Hall of Famer. But, what could he have accomplished had he not tried to push himself through concussions? He (like Twellman) has now been dedicating his retirement to spreading the word about head injuries.

Briana Scurry

Scurry warms up Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Minnesota-born stopper of the ‘95 and ‘99 World Cup teams has also become an outspoken advocate for women’s brain health.

In 2010, Scurry went to make a save and was hit by a forward (again, similar to Shuttleworth), and not only did it end her career...for a time she was in a constant fog. If it wasn’t for painkillers and a small procedure, she likely would still be in a constant state of fogginess and headache today.

Briana Scurry had a great career, don’t get me wrong, but no one should have to suffer like she did when she retired all because they wanted to get back out there. One of my childhood heroes, Scurry’s career was cut short in my mind. I don’t want to see Shuttleworth suffer the same fate.

Now, I know what I am saying is anything but groundbreaking, but it is an issue that is close to my heart and our blog. After it was announced that Shuttleworth was in concussion protocol, we all had a discussion about our past playing days (no matter the sport) and the consensus was that multiple concussions were the norm. (And that was just those that were diagnosed.) Concussions are no joke.

I hope that all major leagues take a good long look at how they deal with head injuries. And as fans, we need to treat these injuries with the seriousness that they deserve. I was one of the many calling for Morneau to come back in 2010, and I look back now with disgust at myself. I urge fans to look into different foundations that research the effects of concussions. Maybe we will start to understand this injury.

But please, Heath. Just let Shuttleworth rest.