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Jamal Lewis Describes Playing Through the 2009 Season With a Concussion

We all know that the issue of concussions has become a big topic in the NFL. The Cleveland Plain Dealer decided to post a boatload of articles today regarding concussions and former members of the Cleveland Browns. You might get dizzy trying to digest so many concussion-related articles all at once (you would think they'd space them out), but here is the list of them:

NFL could face thousands of lawsuits from ex-players over brain damage from concussions
Former Browns running back Jamal Lewis faces uncertainties of brain injuries from concussions
Reggie Rucker on football concussions: "It's about time players acknowledge what's happened to them"
Charley Harraway paying a price for long-ago football collisions
Joe DeLamielleure, forgetfulness and a 'short fuse' are concussions' lingering toll

I paid particular attention to the first two articles. The first one includes the numbers on the high volume of current and former players who have filed lawsuits in the past year:

Under pressure, the NFL has since revised its concussion policies, and has acknowledged the potential for long-term brain injuries. But its actions haven't been enough to avert a tsunami of lawsuits in the last 10 months by more than 2,200 former players, including Lewis and at least 157 other ex-Browns.

I didn't realize the totals were that high.

Former Browns running back Jamal Lewis went into details in the second article on how he (presumably) suffered a concussion in the first game of the regular season, but was re-inserted into the game and kept playing:

"My head was just ringing, and everything was like complete silence," Lewis remembers. "I could hear the [Vikings] coach saying, 'Jamal! Jamal!', asking if I was all right. But that's the only person I could really hear. It was like I was zoned out."

Minutes later, though, when his replacement got hurt, he was back on the field. "They asked me the [concussion diagnostic] questions on the sideline, which I'm not even sure if I answered half of, but, you know, the culture of the game is, 'Gotta go.' "

The rest of the game was a blur. He ran patterns by rote, trying to protect his head. "My main thing was [to] get down."

The next day, an MRI showed a neck bruise, but no one, he says, mentioned a concussion or ordered a neurological exam. Though he played in subsequent games that season, he knew something was seriously wrong. He had migraines. Insomnia. Blurry vision. Bright lights bored into his skull like an ice pick. He couldn't keep food down, including his traditional pre-game steak. His brain was woozy, his concentration shot. When the quarterback called two plays at a time in the huddle, Lewis would repeat the assignments over and over, trying to hold them in his head.

He didn't tell Browns coaches or trainers, partly because he says he didn't realize the symptoms' significance, and because he wanted to keep playing. "They're already trying to bench me," he says. "Why give them another excuse?"

Lewis only played in 9 games in 2009. His season ended in Week 12 of that season against the Cincinnati Bengals, and he has not played a down in the NFL since.