In his training gear, Devon McTavish looks as if he’s fit to participate in D.C. United’s practice sessions and continue serving as a reserve defender/midfielder for the MLS club. But like several former teammates -- and many athletes from a variety of sports – the Winchester, Va., native has had to halt his workouts because of a concussion.
McTavish, 26, is in his sixth season with United, placing him second behind midfielder Clyde Simms in continuous service. Since Feb. 10, the day after a scrimmage against Florida International University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he has been relegated to the sidelines and doctors’ offices.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do, just play a waiting game,” he said Tuesday after a light workout independent of the team. “There’s no timeline really, but I can say the last couple days have been an improvement on the first five weeks.”
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Given its frightening history of concussions, United isn’t taking any chances. Josh Gros and Bryan Namoff were forced into retirement in the prime of their careers, and Alecko Eskandarian missed considerable time before stepping away from the sport while with the Los Angeles Galaxy and returning to the University of Virginia to complete his degree.
“This is always a tough process,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “He’s seeing all the specialists and going through everything. I know he is frustrated, as everyone is. The body is fine, but something is off.”
McTavish was hurt in the final moments of the exhibition against FIU, but unlike most concussion injuries, he wasn’t struck by a ball, kicked, or involved in a violent collision. An opposing player knocked him from behind, he said, causing a whiplash motion and forcing him into another player.
“I thought something might be wrong then, but the game was almost over, and I didn’t feel anything until the next day,” said McTavish, who began to experience headaches, dizziness and the sensation of pressure on his head. Physical activity would trigger recurrences.
“It’s only my second concussion and, to be out this long, it makes me think about things,” said McTavish, who, for years, has battled Crohn’s disease. “I’m not done, I want to come back, but it’s tough because you start to think that maybe I should work on my re’sume’ a little bit.
“So far I just have my name on it, that’s all,” the West Virginia University graduate added with a smile.
“It makes me think that there’s a lot of life after soccer. I don’t think we’re at that stage yet. I definitely want to play again.”