A Yale football player quits to save his brain

Andrew Grinde was not just another football player. As a running back at C.M. Russell High School in Great Falls, Mont., he rushed for 2,180 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2014, leading the Rustlers to the state title game, and was named Montana’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year.

Swift, stocky, powerful and fearless, he outran some defenders and bowled others over. His highlight video is worth watching. Find it at www.hudl.com/profile/2376679/Andrew-Grinde.

With a 4.0 grade-point average, Grinde (rhymes with Lindy) was recruited by Ivy League schools, as well as the University of Montana and Montana State. He headed off to Yale before deciding to take a year off from school and football. His return to the gridiron the next summer merited a story in the Great Falls Tribune. “I miss it, for sure,” he told the reporter. “I love playing.”

Grinde, who goes by Drew, returned to Yale and in his first collegiate game carried the ball four times for 45 yards and a touchdown. But in practice the following week, he had a bruising collision while pass blocking against a 240-pound linebacker.

The next morning in class, another student asked him whether he was drunk. “I was slurring my words,” he told me by phone from New Haven, Conn. He immediately went to the university health clinic and found he’d suffered a concussion.

He sat out for a week and a half, but when he resumed practice, something was wrong. “I got very lightheaded and could barely feel my legs,” he recalls. That was enough. “I cleaned out my locker that night.”

Grinde had been playing tackle football since he was in fifth grade. He had been a high school star. But he could no longer accept the risk to his cognitive function and mental health.

Even before that episode, he had begun to worry. His brother was studying neuroscience at the University of Montana and told him that playing football “was probably the worst thing you could do for yourself as an adolescent.”

He wasn’t deterred, but every time he got hit in practice, he would think about concussions and the cumulative damage he might be doing to his brain. “Playing football wasn’t the same,” he says.

He had cause for concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, an incurable degenerative brain disease, “is believed to be caused in part by exposure to repetitive head impacts, including concussions as well as subconcussive trauma.” It adds, “The greatest risk factor for CTE is the number of years of exposure to repeated head or brain injuries.”

Football involves exactly that sort of exposure. A Boston University study found CTE in 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players. Of the 53 brains from college players who didn’t make the NFL, the disease was detected in 48 of them — 91 percent.

Scientists examined the brains that the Mayo Clinic had preserved from patients with neurodegenerative disorders. CTE was present in 1 in 3 of those who had played contact sports — and none of those who hadn’t.

The NFL resisted the evidence about the effects of the game but eventually had to admit reality. It reached a settlement covering some 20,000 former players, which is expected to cost $1 billion. The NCAA also is facing lawsuits and last summer settled one from a University of Texas player’s widow who sought $1 million.

Grinde spent years meting out and incurring hits to the head. He now has to live with the fear of developing symptoms of CTE.

Last year, I wrote a column arguing that Harvard and Yale, as two of the world’s premier educational institutions, should stop subjecting their undergraduates to the danger of irreversible damage to their excellent brains. Grinde read it recently and emailed to tell me, “This article aligns with what I have been preaching to many of my peers at Yale, both football players and non-players.” That email led to our conversation.

The Ivy League has tried to curb the problem by banning tackling during in-season practices and moving kickoffs from the 35- to the 40-yard line to increase the number of touchbacks. But these changes can’t fix a sport designed to batter brains. Reducing the number of alligators in a lake wouldn’t make it safe for swimming.

Drew Grinde has ensured that one Yale undergraduate won’t be at high risk of brain damage every fall Saturday. Yale could ensure that none are.

By Steve Chapman for the Chicago Tribune

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Former College Athlete Gives Unique Perspective on Knee Cartilage Injury

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It was a typical winter afternoon in southern California playing with his son at the park.

He stepped in a small hole, not unlike a hundred times before in the past without incident, so he brushed it off as just a temporary tweak or mild sprain. He then did a quick jog to the car and noticed a pinch of pain on the outside of his knee with every step forcing him to stop and walk.

Joshua grew up in Southern California playing about every sport imaginable sometimes playing hockey and football games in the same day. He was a varsity four sport athlete in high school, at one point even training with future professional Olympic and elite spartan runners running up ski slopes at the local resorts. In college, he ran under a coach who was an American record holder in the mile. No matter what sport or how many thousands of miles in training, he never suffered any major injuries.

The day after rolling his ankle he noticed he could not quite bend his knee as much and then when playing with his one-year old daughter his knee suddenly locked for a few minutes unable to straighten or bend at all. In the next couple days, Joshua was able to get a stat MRI.

He did know that since college he had put on about five pounds a year and this raised the risk of him having a knee injury or potentially damaging his cartilage.  With his ten years of experience as a Physicians Assistant (PA) in Orthopedic Surgery specializing in sports medicine, he started speculating on his diagnosis – quite possibly a bucket handle meniscus tear.

What he saw on the MRI scan immediately shocked him. He could see clearly that he had sheared off a chunk of his articular cartilage the size of a dime, which looked like a snow plow went through it. “I knew I was in big trouble,” Joshua explains, “…it’s such a bad injury because cartilage does not heal itself and doesn’t regenerate.”

Being dealt this curveball, Joshua started immediately reviewing and researching more about current cartilage surgeries to make the best decision on how to get it treated. Coincidentally, ten years earlier, while going through his graduate PA program, he chose as his master’s project “new treatment strategies in knee injuries for the prevention of knee arthritis.” As a PA in Orthopedic Surgery, he had scrubbed about a dozen cases throughout his ten-year career and knew the complexity of cartilage surgeries. After weighing the pros and cons, he eliminated a possible autograft or microfracture. He reached out to a renowned sports Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Raffy Mirzayan, about performing a cartilage allograft transplantation.

A few months after the injury and finding a right match, Joshua went through with the two-hour outpatient surgery with no complications. Within six weeks he was walking with a cane and had full range of motion. Now, at five months after the surgery, he can walk normally and go up and down stairs; perhaps most importantly, he is able to play with is two kids again. His hope is to get back to running once his knee has healed (after about eight months) and to get back to running with his competitive college teammates.

He is eternally grateful to the donor and the family and he wants to do something special before he reaches out to them to thank them for the gift of donation. “I really enjoy helping others… I want to be able to pay it forward.

“I haven’t written a letter yet because I want to do something to thank them… I want to write a letter with me doing something (finishing a race) to show them how much of an impact it made for me.”

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About NCSA – The largest and most successful athletic recruiting network

Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph and Steve Kashul talk with Debbie Garr, mother of NCSA student-athlete Erin Garr about the Garr family experience working with NSCA since January 2018 to help direct Erin’s athletic future.

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, NCSA is now the world’s largest and most successful college athletic recruiting network. With a network of 35,000 college coaches and more than 700 employees, NCSA assists student-athletes in 34 sports find their best path to college.

Bringing Process, Technology, and Passion to Recruiting

In 2000, NCSA became the first company to challenge the status quo and bring digital technology to the antiquated, paper-based recruiting world. The innovation did not stop there. A year before the creation of YouTube, NCSA was the first to offer online highlight video access to college coaches. New technology and data also helped create a recruit match system that helps athletes determine their best college options.

One of NCSA’s strengths has always been its strong relationship with the college coach community. It’s a level of trust that has been built over time and maintained with performance. Today, there are more than 35,000 college coaches in our network. But what really drives success for NCSA and its clients is the passionate team of former college coaches and athletes who use their firsthand knowledge and expertise to help athletes at every step in the recruiting process.Home

Since 2000, more than 100,000 NCSA clients have reported their commitment to a college team.

Sports Medicine Weekly on 670 The Score

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Off Season Golf Tips from the Professionals

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Dr. Chuck Bush-Joseph and Steve Kashul discuss off season golf tips from the professionals with Dr. Grant Garrigues from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and Joe Estes from Athletico Physical Therapy.

Sports Medicine Weekly on 670 The Score

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