December 27, 2009

Injured FB player released from hospital

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Matt Blea was rushed to the hospital with a life-threatening brain injury suffered during a Thanksgiving Day high school football game.

He had brain surgery and spent a week in a drug-induced coma as doctors fought to reduce the swelling of his brain.

Two days before Christmas, the 16-year-old San Jose (Calif.) High Academy star ran a lap around the lawn at Valley Medical Center in San Jose and returned home.

Feel free to call it a Christmas Miracle - his parents and doctors are.

"It's an unbelievable day, from probably the worst moment of our family's life to a joyous moment like today," Matt's father, Dave Blea, told the San Jose Mercury News, which has done a fantastic job covering the story from all angles (read all its coverage here).

"It's a blessing. It's a miracle, really."

One that's hard to explain.

"He's absolutely somebody who's going to be able to go back to school and eventually get to a full school day, graduate and, hopefully, move on to higher education," Lisa Lombard, the doctor who has been in charge of his rehabilitation at Valley Med, said. "Whether he's going to get exactly back to where he was before his injury, that's hard to say."

In the short term, Lombard said Blea - who has a horseshoe-shaped scar on his head - will need his parents and others to make sure he stays safe. He may have trouble concentrating or tend to forget little things such as turning off the stove or oven, she told the paper.

How Blea's experience will impact football long term remains to be seen.

The play in which Blea was injured seemed innocent enough - a block to his chest on a downfield play. Blea went down, initially got up, and then went down again. At that point, it became clear something was wrong.

According to Lombard, something may have been wrong before then.

Lombard told reporters that Blea suffered from "second impact syndrome" - meaning Blea had suffered a concussion (perhaps undiagnosed) prior to the play. The concussion could have been earlier that game or earlier that season. But because of it, the play became a second hit, one exponentially greater.

Incidents such as this likely will prompt a need for more beginning of season baseline tests to measure brain function - and more stringent rules regarding return to play after a head injury.

The school and community have rallied around Matt and his family since Thanksgiving Weekend. (Read earlier RivalsHigh coverage here)

The Bleas (Mom, Dad and two brothers) are just happy Matt is home for the holidays.

"We're going to have Thanksgiving and Christmas all in one," Dave Blea said.

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