Morgan's concussions put him at center of debate
Posted: Thursday September 20, 2007 2:11PM; Updated: Thursday September 20, 2007 2:13PM
Dan Morgan never wanted to be anybody's lab rat. Football player, husband, father, businessman: Yes, all of those things to the very fullest. But lab rat, where his every breath is extrapolated as a theoretically measurable part of some larger tableau? Not a chance he would sign on for that. His game and his life are too personal, too private, too treasured.
But then on Sept. 10, 2006, just more than a year ago, the middle linebacker for the Carolina Panthers suffered a concussion in a season-opening loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It was the fifth "official'' concussion of Morgan's career and his second in a little more than a month.
Not long after the injury, Morgan's career was placed in the hands of Panthers' team doctors and concussion specialist Dr. Mickey Collins of Pittsburgh. They would monitor Morgan. They would decide when -- and if -- he would play football again. That was burden enough. Eventually he would be cleared and decide to play again. He's now two games into his seventh professional season.
But concurrent with Morgan's comeback, the issue of long-term effects on football players with multiple head injuries was thrust into the public spotlight in a major way. Experts presented evidence that brain damage from concussions might have been a major contributing factor in the deaths of former players Andre Waters, Justin Strzelczyk, Mike Webster and Terry Long. Iconic former Colts' tight end John Mackey suffers from dementia, a heartbreaking symbol.
Hence Morgan finds himself at an awkward intersection. His life, his brain and his career are his own. But there is a forceful and determined lobby at work that seeks to protect football players from themselves, and Morgan is being watched closely.
Last week I talked with Christopher Nowinski, the former Harvard football player and professional wrestler who has become a strident voice in the fight to learn more about the effects of concussions. Nowinski, 29, author of Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis, also suffers from the effects of concussions he suffered in football and wrestling. He has followed Morgan's case.
I also talked at length with Morgan after the Panthers' practice last Friday morning in Charlotte. I first interviewed him when he was a sophomore in college, helping lead Miami out of the post-probation doldrums.