What it’s like to be knocked unconscious on the football field


PITTSBURGH, PA – OCTOBER 06: Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lays on the ground after being injured against the Baltimore Ravens on October 6, 2019 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Yesterday in Pittsburgh, the country witnessed one of the scariest injuries in football imaginable when Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph was knocked unconscious after a hit to the head.

As his body lay motionless on the field, his teammates were clearly upset and immediately signaled from medical staff to come to his aid.

While many may not be able to grasp what it is like to be knocked out cold on the field, I can personally attest to how it feels and how it gives you a different view of the game.

This story is not meant to discourage those from playing the game; I went back to playing as soon as I was medically cleared and would let my future son play the game if he wished.

Many of the details given are not first-hand memories, but rather what teammates and my parents told me later.

May 28, 2013

It was the day after Memorial Day back in the early summer of 2013. I had just finished my junior year at Bishop Gorman Catholic School in Tyler and was looking forward to making the most of my senior year.

We were playing two games of 7-on-7 at Bullard High School in a summer league. After the first game, we sat by the bleachers as we waited for our matchup against Frankston High School.

7-on-7 is a passing-only version of football played in the summer by high schools. It is two-touch football without pads or helmets.

As we stepped onto the field for warmups, my memory of the game stopped right there.

I was later told that while I was playing free safety, Frankston through a pass over the middle and my teammate and I collided head-first at full speed trying to break up the pass.

I would lie unconscious on the field for the next several minutes.

PITTSBURGH, PA – OCTOBER 06: Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is helped off the field after being knocked out by a hit in the third quarter during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on October 6, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Waking up

There was no moment where I realized I was unconscious; in fact, it felt like I was asleep until I started to wake up.

At first, all I could see was white light and my first conscious thought was maybe I had died. Perhaps I had been shot.

I was next aware of a burning sensation on the left side of my face. It turns out I was bleeding out my left nostril and mouth. It is also the side of my head that took the brunt of the impact.

My dad had rushed from the stands from my side to check on me. Thankfully, my mom was at my brother’s game over at Brook Hill High School and did not see the play.

A doctor who had a son on our team also rushed to the field to check on my condition. I began asking what had happened over and over, never remembering that my dad and the coaches were answering me.

Immediate Effects

As I finally stood up, I took one step forward and immediately fell back over. Parents and doctors had to help me over to the sideline so I could be examined.

I was then overcome with extreme nausea and felt that I needed to vomit. I could still only see out of my right eye because my left one was swollen shut.

When a doctor asked me where I was, I answered “Dallas,” which of course is more than 100 miles west of Bullard. He then asked me what I did for Memorial Day and I answered that the holiday was not until next week.

It became quickly apparent that I had lost more than a week’s worth of memory. In my confused state, I then asked if I could go back into the game.

He replied very dryly: “No, no I don’t think so.”

Memory Loss

What happened next was I became very emotional at not being able to remember anything that had happened that day or for much of the past week.

Growing up, I had a very strong memory and was not able to wrap my head around the fact that people could lose memory in a concussion.

Once I realized I could not recall any recent memories, I began crying very heavily and it scared many of my teammates. Some worried that I might have permanent brain damage.

The doctors on-site decided that despite my severe concussion, a hospital visit did not seem necessary and let me go home. In the car, I said to my family that this “drive home from Dallas was going to take forever.”

I have no memory of the trip home from Bullard.

Longer Effects

For the next several days, I had almost no energy and slept several hours of the day. I would become exhausted from simple tasks such as sitting outside.

I was told to avoid any physical activities until I went 48 hours without a headache. That requirement sidelined me for more than two weeks.

It would be until nearly July when I was able to re-take the field.

The opening game of my senior year against Beckville on August 31, 2019. This photo was taken three months after my concussion. Gorman would win the game 49-6.

Outlook on life

Senior year of high school is when you begin to realize as a young adult how long life really is and extends well past your time on the football field.

It made me realize what I wish that all high school players knew while they played: head injuries are not to be messed with and should be treated with the utmost care.

However, I never considered quitting the game. My passion for football runs deep to this day and I am still an avid supporter that young men should play it.

There are risks associated with playing football, just as there is with everything in life. But when those risks confront you, it is important to minimize the threat of coming face-to-face with them again.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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