In a recent news feed from the Eagles, it was announced that DT Mike Patterson would miss all of training camp after undergoing surgery on his brain. Now, when most people hear about this, thoughts automatically go to “Will he ever play again?”, or “Wow…..his life is pretty much over”. Patterson suffered a seizure in camp last season and was later told he had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) on his brain. Doctors treated his condition with medication before the surgery, and he played in 15 games for the Eagles last season. However, as things stand now, doctors have told Patterson that he cannot participate in training camp until he is given a release.
This is where I see some similarities between myself and Patterson. Last year, in my job as an aircraft mechanic, I was struck in the head by a pressurized air hose. The accident left me with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and eventually led to me being placed in a brain rehab facility for the first four months of this year. And, while things are slowly getting better for me, they are not back to where they were prior to the accident. In no way am I comparing myself to Patterson as a professional athlete. What I am trying to draw comparisons to here is that life can, and does, go on for victims of brain injuries and victims of brain conditions. Too often, we are placed in the “special” corner, for fear that we might be broken, like a china doll. Too often, people aren’t fully aware of how much people that have suffered TBI’s, and other brain conditions, can be effective contributors to society. As I sit here and write this article right now, you would think that nothing is wrong with me. I still speak with a stutter, which is very slow in improving. But, to the good, I am once again employed, and being back out there, while tiring, is one of the greatest feelings in the world. For all out there who might see Patterson in training camp… give him a little pat on the back.
Brain injuries are no joke. In today’s NFL, so much emphasis is being placed on concussion-related concerns. We have all heard the stories about former players who have passed away, and had their brains donated to science. We hear about these brains showing all the classic signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). So, in this case, give Patterson a pass on this one, please. I know the perception sometimes out there, is to look at a victim of a brain injury, and say “Well, look at him… there’s nothing wrong with him at all”. And, in a sense, they would be right. But, so much is going on under the surface. It’s not like some people can maybe gripe and complain about Player X taking a day or two of camp off because of a jammed finger, or a bruised arm. This is a brain issue.
Depth-wise, the Eagles are going to be OK. They used their first round pick on DT Fletcher Cox, signed Derek Landri in free agency, and kept Antonio Dixon, a restricted free-agent. The depth is there. There’s no reason to rush Patterson back to jeopardize his health. Again, if you see him at camp, let him know what kind of courage it takes to endure what he’s going through, and the day that we see him come back on the field will be a great one, indeed. Best of luck, Mike Patterson… and Fly, Eagles Fly…