Concussion Might End Season for United's Gros

josh gros - d.c. united
"We are going to take our time with him and make sure we are not setting him up to come back too early," says United Coach Tom Soehn. Gros admits to having suffered upwards of 20 concussions since high school. (Kevork Djansezian - AP)
By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

D.C. United's Josh Gros, who suffered his second concussion this year while routinely heading the ball Saturday night, might end up missing the rest of the MLS season.

The club is arranging for him to see a neurologist in the Washington area and considering sending him to a specialist in Pittsburgh. He will miss tonight's match against the New York Red Bulls at RFK Stadium and seems certain to sit out Saturday's game at Toronto.

While team officials are taking a cautious approach in hopes that Gros will return soon, sources close to the team and the player said yesterday that there is growing concern the career of the fourth-year midfielder-defender is in jeopardy and he should not play again this season.

"We are going to take our time with him and make sure we are not setting him up to come back too early," Coach Tom Soehn said. "We're going to make sure he is ready to go. Whatever time frame that is, I don't know."

Gros said after Saturday's game that he has had between 15 and 20 concussions since high school. Most have been Grade I, or mild, but the fact that contact with the ball is triggering problems has alarmed the club.

In April, Gros was hit in the back of the head with the ball during a Champions' Cup match against Chivas Guadalajara in Mexico and had to leave the field. He missed United's regular season opener a few days later but returned to the lineup the following weekend.

On Saturday, after heading the ball off his temple, he complained of blurred vision and was removed. He had a headache and vomited in the locker room. His symptoms subsided within 24 hours, but the club felt further evaluation was necessary.

"When Josh heads the ball with proper form and heads it with his forehead, he doesn't have a problem," head trainer Brian Goodstein said. "It's any time his head rotates that he has a problem."

Since the incident in Mexico, Gros has worn padded head gear, but many in the soccer community believe it only reduces the force of impact by a small percentage.

Asked if he thought Gros might be sidelined the rest of the season, Goodstein said, "It's a doctor's decision, but there's definitely a chance."

This is not the first time a United player has had to deal with possible long-term issues after a concussion. Striker Alecko Eskandarian, who was traded last winter, had post-concussion syndrome following a collision with New England goalkeeper Matt Reis in June 2005 and missed the remainder of the season.

MLS veteran Ross Paule retired in early 2005 after eight years because of post-concussion syndrome.

"It's so scary and it seems the last couple years there have been so many more," United midfielder Ben Olsen said. "I don't know what the cause of that is; maybe we are just more aware of the injury now and the science of it is better.

"I'm sure it will ultimately be in Josh's hands and what his next steps are."

Gros is not United's best player, but he is one of its most versatile and reliable. He has started 18 of 19 matches, is second on the team in minutes played and has been used on both flanks in the midfield and defense.

On Saturday, Domenic Mediate replaced him in the ninth minute and played well in the 2-0 victory over the Crew. But with Olsen expected to return from an ankle ailment, Mediate will probably return to the bench.

There are also questions about central defense. Bobby Boswell, the 2006 MLS defender of the year who has been inconsistent this season, did not play in Columbus and might remain in reserve tonight. Devon McTavish and Greg Vanney teamed up to blank the Crew for a club-record third consecutive shutout victory in league play.

"From a coaching standpoint, it's a great thing to have," Soehn said of the defensive depth. "Everybody is better when you have someone looking over your shoulder. It pushes each other to stay sharp."

MLS Notes: Israel Sesay, a 16-year-old forward who left Sierra Leone and settled in Montgomery County, has signed with MLS and will be available in a lottery Friday, soccer industry sources said. Sesay played at Quince Orchard High School before enrolling in the U.S. under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla. Citizenship issues apparently prevented him from playing in the Under-17 World Cup, which is being held in South Korea this month.

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