Michael Vick's Health History Makes Week 17 Start All Risk, No Reward

Dave Siebert, M.D.Featured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles sits on the sideline with an injured right hand in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on September 25, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Giants defeated the Eagles 29-16.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Make no mistake about it—Michael Vick's health status remains precarious.

After suffering a concussion in Week 10, Vick remained on the Philadelphia Eagles official injury report due to the injury through Week 16. An independent neurologist did not clear him to play until over a month after he went down.

Add that to the fact that Vick also suffered at least one other previously documented concussion—and most athletic trainers and physicians would likely speculate that he has probably had others in the past that went undiagnosed—and his situation becomes very tricky.

Unfortunately, it doesn't end there, as Nick Foles' broken hand has added yet another twist to the story.

According to the Associated Press, Vick will likely be under center as Philadelphia's starting quarterback for the Eagles' regular-season finale against the New York Giants.

The riskiness of this move cannot be understated.


Simply, there is little to be gained.

The Eagles are still a disaster.  Andy Reid is still likely out after this season.  The offensive line is still a mess.

Yet most importantly, Vick is still concussion prone.

After Vick went down with his concussion following two fairly unimpressive hits, I wrote that the Eagles would be best suited to rest Vick for the remainder of the season because of how apparently easily he suffers the head injury.

When Vick's symptoms continued to persist five weeks later, I became legitimately concerned about Vick's future in the NFL (the case of Jahvid Best comes to mind).

Finally, two weeks ago, an independent neurologist cleared him to play.

Now he is going back out there?  In a next-to-meaningless game?


I concede that the Giants can qualify for the postseason should a perfect storm of wins and losses occur throughout the NFC, making the game not exactly "meaningless."  I also concede that the Eagles are currently limited to either Vick or Trent Edwards at the quarterback position.

I am also all for playing to win no matter what.

Except if doing so puts a player's health in serious jeopardy.

By taking snaps for the Eagles this Sunday, Vick will function from play to play as one of the following two types of quarterbacks:

  • A running quarterback who becomes the target of a win-at-all-costs Giants' linebacker and secondary core
  • A pocket passer behind an offensive line that collapses on nearly every play

Does either of those sound like a good situation for a recent concussion victim?

Granted, personnel decisions cannot be made based on injuries that only could happen.

However, Vick's unique situation merits making an exception.

In the best-case scenario, the Eagles win, slightly worsen their draft order and eliminate their rival from the playoffs.

In the worst-case scenario, the Giants win but still probably do not make the playoffs, the Eagles lose a meaningless game and Vick's future in the NFL is essentially eliminated by another hit to the head.

Yes, another concussion could be that devastating.

According to the 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport held in 2008, experts agree that 80 to 90 percent of concussions will heal within two weeks.

Additionally, it is widely held that with each concussion, symptoms become more severe and longer lasting.  One theory also states that an athlete's so-called "concussion threshold," or the force of a hit needed to cause a concussion, is lowered with each injury suffered.

Applying that thinking to Vick yields the following sobering conclusions:

  • Vick's most recent concussion lasted two-and-a-half times longer than the vast majority
  • Another concussion could be even worse
  • His already-low concussion threshold may now be at its lowest point to date

And now, it appears that Vick will return to take snaps for an offensive line giving up sacks at the 27th-highest rate in the NFL.

Against a desperate division rival.

In a game that the Eagles are expected to lose anyway.

Perhaps Week 17 is, indeed, Vick's audition to take the reins of another team in 2013.  Perhaps not.

Either way, Vick's tormenting 2012 season just won't end.


Dave Siebert is a medical/injury Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report who will graduate from medical school in June 2013.  He plans to specialize in both Family Medicine and Primary Care (non-operative) Sports Medicine and has a special interest in concussions.

Concussion information above is based on Dave's own experience in the evaluation and management of concussions under the direct supervision of Sports Medicine physicians and concussion specialists, and further information can be found in the consensus statement from the 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport.  A fourth conference was held in November 2012, the recommendations of which are pending publication.