Former Jaguars LB Russell Allen Discusses Playing Through Stroke in NFL Game

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2014

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Updates from Wednesday, April 23

Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union has the latest on Russell Allen:

Original Text

Russell Allen went from an undrafted free agent to a key member of the Jacksonville Jaguars defense during his five years with the team. It came as a surprise when the team decided to release the linebacker, but it turns out the reason goes well beyond football.

Allen explained to Robert Klemko of The MMQB that he suffered a stroke during the Jaguars' Week 15 game against the Buffalo Bills last season. He felt something was wrong after a play in the third quarter but finished the game, thinking it was just the impact of a hit.

He also talked about something many players have mentioned when it comes to head injuries and the NFL: the fear of leaving the game to get checked out and never having another opportunity to play because somebody takes your spot. Allen explained:

If I could go back in time I would do it differently. Being in it and knowing how I felt in that moment, the game feels so serious. You're thinking, I can't come out, because what if someone else comes in and takes my job? Or they need me out there, and I can't come out because I really want to win. But you can't do that, and I learned that the hard way.

His story is a cautionary tale for any player who has similar thoughts in the future, something Allen discussed on his Twitter account:

Allen knew something was off when he started to have double vision in the second half. He asked fellow linebacker Paul Posluszny to check out his eye and make sure he was OK. However, he never checked with a team doctor during the game. 

"He kept asking, 'Is my eye OK?'" Posluszny told The MMQB. "I looked at him and said, 'Yeah, it looks fine.' I couldn’t tell the seriousness of the situation. How do you tell?"

Allen finished the game, returned home and went to bed all while continuing to feel a little off. When he woke up the next day and still didn't completely have his bearings, he decided to alert the team's training staff, and it started a chain of events that eventually revealed he had a stroke.

Klemko notes the linebacker will never be able to play football again because a dead spot on the brain (specifically on the cerebellum—which controls body's ability to walk, run and crawl) is worrisome for doctors, who aren't sure how his body would respond to further contact. The effects linger, but his medical team believes things will improve over time.

Allen went on to say he felt the need to speak out for the benefit of others. He might not be able to play football again but thinks he can help other players by telling his story:

Guys talk about it all the time. "I'm all right—I just got my bell rung." I've had, maybe 10 times in my career, when for a second I felt woozy after a hit. And what I've learned from this is that it's not something to be overlooked. If it feels like something's wrong, something's wrong. I want someone to know my experience, so they can know when they experience something similar.

He has received support from key members of the Jaguars organization, including general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley. It's also begun to pour in from around the football community, as illustrated by a message from Luke Easterling of The Draft Report:

The good news is that Allen sought help soon enough that he was able to get the necessary aid. Klemko reports he'll remain on medication to thin his blood for the rest of his life. He's likely to struggle with coordination issues and picking up and gripping objects with his hands. But otherwise, he should be able to live a normal life with his family in San Diego.

Allen also hopes to coach football at the high school level to help kids prepare for life beyond the game while using his experiences to help them realize when to seek medical attention. 

Head injuries and the impact that football can have on the brain will continue to be a burning topic moving forward. Allen's story is just the latest example to stir discussion.

It's a scary story, but Allen is clearly trying to turn it into a positive by helping others.