The collision was a simple one, typical of any number of NFL hits. In a Week 15 game, Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen collided face-to-face with Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood and, like any number of NFL players, he kept playing.
But that hit ended Allen’s career because, it turns out, he suffered a stroke.
Allen, who was released by the Jaguars last week, told MMQB.com’s Robert Klemko the story of how his career came to an end at the age of 27.
“It was strange because it was so routine,” Allen said. “We hit, I got off the block, no big deal. I felt something flash—like they say when you get your bell rung. I didn’t lose consciousness. I walked back to the huddle and finished the drive.”
Despite all the awareness of the dangers of concussions, Allen finished the game even though he experienced double vision and later had a headache, with light sensitivity. The next day, he alerted the team.
The Jaguars’ medical staff ordered an MRI and sent Allen home after it was done. On Tuesday morning the trainer called Allen and told him to meet the team physician at the emergency room. Allen thought going to the hospital was only a matter of convenience, because the doctor might be doing rounds there. To his surprise he was told that he’d suffered a stroke during the 27-20 loss to Buffalo. Allen was admitted to the hospital and put through a battery of tests for three days while teammates visited and coach Bradley (and several assistants) called to offer encouragement.
Allen’s wife and mother couldn’t believe it. Pregnant with the couple’s second son, Ali knew the risks of professional football and had steeled herself for the day he might be lying on the field motionless, surrounded by doctors. But he’d driven home and told her he was fine. And he was always fine, having never missed a regular-season game in high school, in college at San Diego State or even in the NFL. Above all, Ali wanted to know why. His mother, Jennifer, insisted the diagnosis was made in error.
But the results were conclusive: a small portion of Allen’s brain was inactive. Doctors told Allen it could have been much worse, especially since he went back on the field and risked other jarring collisions. As it was, he had trouble holding onto dishes, breaking several—a symptom consistent with a cerebellum injury.