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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.



August 14, 2012 at 10:26 AM

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Zach Miller not practicing after suffering concussion Saturday

RENTON -- Tight end Zach Miller was not on the practice field when the Seahawks returned to work on Tuesday.

This is not surprising. He suffered a concussion during Saturday night's exhibition game after his second catch. He held onto the ball, and attempted to stay in the game before being pulled off by the training staff.

Coach Pete Carroll said after the game that it did not appear to be a severe concussion, however it was a concussion. The Seahawks -- and Miller -- will follow the league's testing protocol before he is cleared to return to practice and potentially play.

Miller missed two weeks last year after suffering a concussion during the Seahawks' victory over the Giants, and on Sunday, there was a headline that certainly caught some attention:

Seahawks' Zach Miller suffers his fourth concussion
By Michael David Smith | ProFootballTalk.com

Context for Zach Miller's latest concussion
By Mike Sando | ESPN's NFC West blog

It is a sign of progress in the league's handling of head injuries that the term "concussion" is being used instead of terms like "ding."

It should not, however, become some sort of flag attached to a player to speculate about his long-term health.

Now, the frequency of head injuries for a specific player is significant as well, and something not to be taken likely. But it's potentially misleading and definitely inaccurate to make inferences based on the frequency or perceived severity of a player's medical condition based on a coach's description.

What I mean by that is, the implication from the report on ProFootballTalk.com (not Sando's update) is that because Carroll described it as a concussion, and because Miller has had previous reported concussions that he may be nearing a tipping point in terms of his health.

We simply don't know that. At all.

Yes, it's a serious injury. So is every concussion, which has to be diagnosed and assessed whether or not the player has suffered a previous concussion. Every head injury is worrisome. Not just for a player with a history.

There are several dangers to counting up a player's reported concussions and making about possible long-term effects:

     1) It assumes that all concussions have been disclosed publicly.
They have not been. The league has made a pronounced effort to be more forthright in the descriptions of those types of injuries over the previous two years, but that wasn't the case previously when coaches -- notoriously circumspect on injury information -- were more likely to minimize or even hide an injury from the public.

To use media reports to count up concussions now and compare it to reports of concussions from years past is pretty much worthless.

     2) There is no magic, specific threshold that a player reaches.
Now, this is a problematic area to wade into, and in no way do I want to minimize either the concern over the severity of a concussion or the potential long-term implications, which are still being studied.

But counting up the total number of concussions is not nearly as important in diagnosing a problem as whether the concussions are occurring more frequently and with less forceful hits.

Simply put, people usually recover from concussions and can resume their activities. This is why the league's concussion protocol is a positive step: It is designed to make sure a player is getting better. And if he's not? He doesn't return to play.

And once he's better, he shouldn't be at any more risk of a concussion than he was previously. And that's where the frequency becomes a concern: Are concussions occurring more frequently for a specific player or with less severe hits?

Because that's the danger sign, not counting up the total and assuming it means something especially when you consider that it's a coach who's describing the injury, not a doctor nor someone looking at a player's medical chart.

Again, this is not to minimize the severity of a concussion. It's to point out that the injury is more complicated than simply counting up the number of times a player has been described as concussed by his coach.

Seahawks sitting out Tuesday's practice: FB Michael Robinson, DE Cordarro Law, DE Pierre Allen, LB Malcolm Smith, CB Ron Parker, SS Jeron Johnson.


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