Gert Steegmans of Radio Shack suffered a concussion five days ago in stage three of the Volta ao Algarve. Not surprisingly his participation in this weekend’s Omloop Het Niuewsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne is questionable.
Perhaps even more questionable is the reaction from Radio Shack Directeur Sportif Dirk Demol, who told sporza.be “The headache must be completely gone, otherwise I won’t let him start.” Uhh, we’re dealing with far more than a headache here — gobbling a few extra strength Aspirin is not the solution.
This kind of quote reminds Twisted Spoke of the old school football coaches — “get the hell back on the field, kid — you just had your bell rung, ya pussy.” After years of stonewalling on the subject of concussions, the National Football League is finally taking it more seriously. The same can’t be said for professional hockey which is witnessing the early retirements of star players afraid of the long term consequences of multiple concussions.
We can appreciate Demol’s Belgian hard-man attitude. Top athletes are genetic freaks blessed with incredible physical capacities including recovery. Their bodies can simply do and in this case undo things mere mortals can’t. After a crash like that we’d be in full traction mumbling like a vegetable and eating food from a baby jar.
The International Symposium on Concussion in Sport defines a concussion as a “complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces.” Like slamming into a parked car then smacking your brain on the road like Steegmans.
Experts say recovery time is variable depending on the severity of the concussion and the individual althlete but they all agree on the symptoms associated with ‘post-concussion syndrome.” The after effects include “dizziness, fatigue and problems with concentration and memory, which can persist for weeks, months or even years after concussion.” Given that timetable, a physically grueling bike race sounds like a bad idea even if the “headache” is gone.
Is dizziness an asset when riding at high speed over brutal cobblestones? Is lingering fatigue a plus for handling the rigors of Omloop Het Niuewsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne back-to-back? Isn’t a problem with concentration a serious liability when racing for hours and hours in a tight pack of aggressive riders going full gas? Another bad crash would put Steegman’s entire Spring campaign in danger, besides the scary consequences of a second concussion.
Seems like Gert Steegmans and Dirk Demol should agree to skip this weekend’s races. A no-brainer, really. Sure, that’s a headache for Radio Shack but the alternative sure sounds worse.