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The Sacramento Report: Wherein I Forget My Notebook

It's impressive how much interesting information is imparted during one grid club meeting.  Try as I might to studiously write it all down, I just can't write fast enough.  Inevitably many of the thoughts and insights provided by guests gets lost in translation.  So imagine my horror when I arrived and realized I had left my trusty note paper behind.  Now I would have to attempt to describe 90 minutes of non-stop Cal talk based only on my rather inferior memory.  As my wife (otherwise known as my brain) would no doubt tell you, that's a recipe for disaster.

So please forgive me if my ramblings seem more disjointed than usual this week!  Luckily, yesterday's speakers were interesting enough to transcend my retelling.  We heard from Jon Sherwood and Dr. Chad Rogair.  Both are involved with sports medicine at Cal and both had fascinating insight into what it takes to train, protect and rehab athletes.

We also heard from Tony Duarte of for some insight into Cal's next opponent.

Even more so than usual, the following is a rough summary of the comments provided by Grid Club speakers

Jon Sherwood & Dr. Chad Rogair

The talk began by describing some background on concussion history nationally and at Cal.  Concussions have always been a particularly tricking injury to identify and diagnose, because a concussion is trauma to the brain with no structural damange.  In other words, the only way to identify a concussion is to notice an impact to a patient's functional ability.  Concussions used to be 'graded' based on symptoms and reactions like loss of consciousness, headaches and memory loss.  But about a decade ago Cal began using impact testing, which has removed much of the vagueness of grading systems.  Currently, every Cal athlete participating in an impact sport takes the impact test prior to competition, thus establishing a baseline.  If a concussion is suspected they can be given the test again to grade functional abilities.  If a player score significantly lower it gives trainers a concrete measurement.

For the record, impact sports is just about everything.  Football and men's and women's soccer are the sports that most commonly result in concussions, but at this point pretty much every sport other than golf results in occasional concussions.  I was surprised to hear that Rugby actually ranks relatively low, behind sports like soccer and lacrosse.

One grid clubber asked about what probably happened when Arizona St. quarterback Steven Threet was injured, went back into the game, and was then removed.  After the game it was announced that he suffered a concussion.  Our guests pointed out that it doesn't take an obviously violent hit to cause a concussion, and that symptoms are not always immediately obvious.  Many times players lose their short term memory, and concussions are reported to trainers by teammates who notice that a player isn't reacting normally in the huddle - missing play calls, repeating plays, forgetting what just happened.

While Jon and Chad were speaking they played a variety of videos of football players suffering concussions, including Jahvid Best, Kevin Everett, DeSean Jackson and various high school and even pee-wee football hits.  At times it was distracting seeing over and over how incredibly violent football can be.  Jon and Chad were both asked if, based on what they had seen, if they would allow their children to play football.  Both responded yes, with the caveat that they might not do so until high school.  Part of this is that with increased awareness of concussions they felt that players are much more likely to be protected and avoid the kind of long term impacts of repeated, untreated head injuries.

While discussing preventing injuries generally, they spoke of the importance of fitness and strength training.  Many players come into college able to bench press incredibly weights, but without the core strength that prevents many injuries.  One of the big focuses of summer bridge programs is getting players into fitness programs that prepare them for the rigors of a long football season.

Obviously, neither could discuss specific injuries, but they did mention a hypothetical injury in which a player tears his calf without tearing any knee ligaments.  Basically, when a body part experiences extreme force that it cannot absorb normally, something has to give.  They have seen injuries when a player broke a bone but the surrounding soft tissue was fine because the bone absorbed the entire energy force of the hit.  In this hypothetical, the calf muscle took the brunt of the force while the surrounding ligaments were 'only' sprained - a relatively lucky result since a muscle tear heals more quickly and is less complicated than ACL or MCL tears.

Tony Duarte

On what happened to Washington St. against ASU

It's something that was really surprising because of the progress they had made on the field against Oregon and Stanford.  When talking with Coach Wulff, he couldn't begin to explain why it happened.

On how James Montgomery is doing

He had an excellent start to the year and was a big part of the WSU offense, but he got really beat up last week and picked up a concussion that will keep him out against Cal.

With Brock Mansion making his first start, Cal is likely to focus on the run.  How is WSU's run defense?

Tony burst out laughing upon hearing this question, then said that Shane Vereen is likely to get some good exercise running the ball this week.  Suffice to say that confidence in slowing down Cal's running game is not high in Pullman.

What's the weather forecast up north?  Any type of winds to make passing the ball more difficult?

There might be some rain, but no extreme conditions.

Any chance that Cal will struggle again on the road?

Well, Cal's road losses have all come against teams that are already bowl eligible, or would eventually be if they hadn't cheated.  Needless to say, Washington St. isn't one of those teams, and Cal will have the most talent on the field.

Any last thoughts on the matchup?

An interesting connection: Cal's backup quarterback, Beau Sweeney, was a high school teammate of Jeff Tuel at Clovis West.  In fact, Tuel was a wide receiver who caught quite a few passes from Beau.