It was a perfect match. The West Virginia Mountaineers needed a quarterback, a man who could run the offense effectively and bring them to a respectable level in the Big 12. Clint Trickett needed a place to go where he would get real playing time, instead of sitting behind various quarterbacks at Florida State. The intelligent, athletic quarterback made his way to Morgantown and made an impact on the most recent addition to the Big 12 conference. But numerous concussions have put an end to Trickett's career, and the sheer number of them is frightening, let alone the ways he was able to stay on the field through them.
In the game today, a game that is now hyper-sensitive to head injuries, Clint Trickett's story will almost certainly not be the first of its kind to be uncovered by the public. For each one of those, however, there are just as many that are still being kept a secret.
People who suffer from one concussion talk about the struggle it causes, from the incessant pain to the dizziness to the sensitivity and everything else in between. People who suffer from a second have all of that and more, since the effects of concussions on the brain worsens with each one. Three comes to sound like an unbearable nightmare for most people.
That is the number of concussions that Clint Trickett suffered that the medical staff for the West Virginia football program knew about. He hid two more from team doctors. Five concussions can be life-altering, but when you consider that all five occurred in a span of 14 months, it sounds like a sort of sick, slow-developing horror film as opposed to a football career. This is what Clint Trickett has gone through in his time as a Mountaineer.
While the end of his career is certainly sad, a silver lining does exist: he will be beginning his coaching career immediately. For him, he will get to continue living around the game of football, even if it is not in the way he would have envisioned it just a couple of short years ago. But the bigger story is the pure number of concussions that he has suffered in a very short amount of time, especially the hidden injuries.
Trickett is not the only player, or even quarterback, who has had to retire from college football this season due to numerous concussions. Quarterbacks Casey Cochran of UConn and David Ash of Texas both have already retired due to the numerous head injuries that they have suffered to this point in their playing careers. Clint Trickett is now part of a long and growing list of players who have had their careers shortened by concussions.
While it is a step in the right direction that players and programs are more concerned about concussions today, there are undoubtedly players in the game still just like Trickett, athletes who have suffered head injuries but have kept them a secret in order to stay on the field.
It is difficult to know just how many college football players are going through this today. The secrecy of the whole thing makes it nearly impossible to know, or even make an estimate. However, it has become clear that this is a serious issue in the sport. Casey Cochran waited four days after being injured in the first game of this season to inform coaches that he was concussed.
As has already been noted, Clint Trickett hid two concussions from team doctors, in addition to three that they were already aware of. It is safe to say that there are many more players experiencing this, and that is unlikely to change any time in the near future, unfortunately.
There are some players who are on the field just because they are required to before going off to the NFL. Some guys have found that they are good at football and it is the only way that they would have gotten in to the college of their choice. For many players, however, they love the game of football and it is there life's work. They want to play the game at the highest level that they can for the longest amount of time that they can.
This love of the game transcends almost, if not truly all, else in life, any athlete with a love for their sport will say as much. It is unsurprising that a player would want to hide injury or adhere to the "play through the pain" mentality to keep doing what they love, but in this day and age, it is damaging the game and it is also now well-known that it is damaging to the livelihoods of the athletes.
College football has become more sensitive about concussions, and rightfully so, but that does not mean that players have. There is a mentality shared by many athletes that if they go down with an injury, they will likely never get that chance again, thus they need to play no matter what. Sometimes this is the case, an injury leads to another player stepping in and keeping that given job.
When you consider the lifelong ailments of suffering multiple concussions, however, the safety of a player's head becomes much more important in the eyes of many than the actual game itself. There have been too many examples in recent history of players dying as a result, in one way or another, of head injuries that they suffered during their football careers. Players are putting themselves at risk just by playing, but by hiding severe trauma from doctors and coaches, they are taking a highly dangerous chance on their own lives.
Clint Trickett was a fine football player, a good quarterback on a good team. It is sad to hear of a player forced into retirement because of injury, but sometimes fans need to step back and wonder if it is for the best, both in the short term and the long term. While the end of his playing days are over, he may have taken a step to protecting his long term health.
Trickett's story may inspire other college football players to come forward and be honest about their injuries and step away from the game that they love. For others though, the fear of losing the one thing they love most will keep them from revealing the truth and extent of their head injuries, damaging both lives and the game of college football in the process.