Yesterday afternoon, Syracuse.com's Nate Mink brought our attention to a report written by STAT, a publication that produces articles that are health-conscious. The post details A.J. Long's concussion story from beginning up until the present time. It also includes information about other former Syracuse football players who have been disqualified from playing, and where they are headed.
The NCAA's Stance
The article first talks about how the NCAA currently handles concussions. The national governing body of collegiate sports does not have a blanket policy on how to go about determining if a player should be disqualified because of multiple instances of head trauma. It's up to the individual school's digression. Also, if one school determines a player is ineligible to play, another could say that he is eligible, after consulting team doctors and running their own tests. Because there is no rule on disqualifying a player in these situations, the NCAA has not kept a record of every specific instance, nor how many of them have transferred. A 2014 report revealed that, out of 70,000 players, 1 in 10 said they had suffered multiple concussions during their careers.
A.J. Long's Story
A.J. has always been a true student of the game, always looking for ways to better himself on the field. He has a drive that was instilled in him at a very young age, and influenced by his father, Ace. The two grew closer through football, as Ace and his first wife divorced when A.J. was in the early stages of grade school. Ace would train A.J. and seek out personal fitness trainers. A.J. said that his father would get pretty intense sometimes, but he was trying to be the best father a boy could ask for. He wanted his son to excel.
A.J. committed to Syracuse during his junior year of high school and promptly got the school's name tattooed on his throwing arm. In his debut last season, he threw for two touchdowns against the number 1 team in the nation at the time, Florida State. It was a beacon of hope shining down on a program that had barely showed signs of life that year. After leading the team to a victory over Wake Forest the following week, the ACC awarded him with "Rookie of the Week" honors. Things were most certainly looking up.
This offseason, though, he injured his throwing hand during training, limiting his time on the practice field. With Terrel Hunt set to return to the starting position for his senior year, talk swirled around about Long's future. Would he switch positions? Would he sit out the year? Or, would he end up transferring? Then, came the concussion, his third since committing to S.U. This time, the symptoms lasted for several days, six according to the STAT report. After the results came in and A.J. was ruled ineligible to play football, he had a decision to make.
After talking things over with team physician, Dr. James Tucker, Long's parents felt that the testing he had gone through was inadequate and that the team had already moved on. Isla, A.J.'s stepmother, is an attorney in Philadelphia and read through Syracuse's concussion policy. She advised her stepson to have more testing done back home in Philly before he quit football altogether.
He was initially ruled symptom free, and posted on Instagram that he would continue to pursue his football dream. Offers from several schools began to roll in from Monmouth, Wagner, and the University of Tennessee-Martin. All he had to do was wait for the final results.
He was cleared to play by the Jefferson Comprehensive Concussion Center, but it was too little too late for Monmouth in New Jersey, his first choice. Long is very optimistic, though, keeping up hope that he will be able to shine once more.
In addition to A.J., a couple of his former Syracuse teammates were mentioned in the STAT report. Luke Arciniega was DQ'd this fall, his second medical disqualification since transferring from Nevada after his first DQ. He is now ineligible to come back to the sport this coming fall.
Offensive lineman Kyle Knapp, also DQ'd this past year, has decided to continue his career at Western Michigan University.
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Concussions are still a shaky topic in football. A prime example is the collective praise and backlash the recent release of "Concussion," starring Will Smith, has received. I believe it's an important topic to discuss, or at least something that shouldn't be taken lightly. We need to protect our young people from suffering later in life.
Good luck to A.J., Kyle, and Luke, and any player who is going through a similar situation. May your future always be bright.