Since You Asked: Tim Tebow's concussion

I've watched the Tim Tebow concussion story with interest and have not seen any references to when he may be able to return to play football at the University of Florida. I know that some colleges won't permit a player to return for quite a while after a concussion, but since it hasn't come up, it makes me wonder if football is such a big revenue producer for major universities that they are more likely to rush a player back into action.

— Robert L., Medford

First of all, Robert, we're sure a university would do everything to protect its student-athletes' brainpower, because that's why they're in college, to expand their intellects, to learn from a variety of academic disciplines and to ponder the mysteries of the universe, right?

OK, now that we got that nonsense out of the way, here's the deal: Tim Tebow, the Florida Gators quarterback, took a whack to the back of the head Saturday and was carted off in an ambulance. He showed obvious signs of a concussion, including wobbly legs, disorientation and vomiting.

The rules on this are there are no rules. There is no set rule or time frame set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for a player who has suffered a concussion to return to play. It is left up to the team's trainers and other medical staff to clear the player to return to play.

Many college programs give their players a "baseline" test before the season and then have the players retake the test at the site of the game if they suspect a concussion may have occurred. If they get a much lower score, they don't play. Off the field, doctors use a concussion grading scale to determine the player's status.

While no two cases are identical, a general rule is that a player with a diagnosed concussion should sit out at least seven days.

The reason to hold an athlete out is because of a complication known as second-impact syndrome. Returning to the field too early may result in an additional head injury while the athlete still is in the recovery phase from the first concussion. That can lead to serious consequences, including death.

The Centers for Disease Control says there are about 300,000 sports-related concussions reportedly annually. Of those, about a third occur in football. The number is almost certainly low, because not all concussions are reported.

So the short answer is there is no NCAA rule, but the real answer is that virtually all schools take the issue seriously, mostly out of concern for the athlete, but also out of concern for legal liability.

If you're a Florida fan, Robert, the good news is that Tebow is out of the hospital and reported to be doing fine. And the Gators have a week off before their next game, so their Heisman winner may be back under center when they next take to the field.

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