Student Well-Being

Concussions Force Student-Athlete to Retire From Football

By Bryan Toporek — September 27, 2011 2 min read
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Nolan Brewster, a junior at the University of Texas, is retiring from football because of concussions and migraines, the team announced Monday.

Brewster, a safety on the football team, suffered a severe concussion in Texas’ win over UCLA on Sept. 17. In the press release announcing his departure from the team, Brewster said that he’s had issues with concussions and migraines dating back to high school.

“It just continued to get worse and got to a point where it was affecting my ability to play,” Brewster said. “I started to worry about getting a migraine or a concussion with every hit. The UCLA game was really the tipping point when I had to come out of the game and they diagnosed me with a severe concussion.”

UT’s head athletic trainer for football, Kenny Boyd, said that the team had already been monitoring Brewster’s concussion situation “very closely,” even before the UCLA game. But, after Brewster suffered the severe concussion against UCLA, doctors advised him to stop playing before risking further damage.

“We’ve talked to Nolan and his family extensively about the situation,” Boyd said, “and after a recent comprehensive evaluation, we felt it was in Nolan’s best interest to no longer play football.”

“It was probably the toughest decision I’ve had to make so far in my life, but I think at the end of the day, it’s the right one,” Brewster said. “I just know I can’t keep playing worrying about this continuing to get worse and knowing that I’m risking my long-term quality of life.”

Luckily for Brewster, he had a strong support network at the University of Texas.

“Talking to my parents, Coach [Mack] Brown and the staff, everyone was behind me 100 percent. They want me to focus on taking care of myself, getting my degree, and preparing for my future. That’s what I plan to do.”

“He will continue to help our staff and be a part of this program, but he has earned his scholarship here,” Coach Brown said.

That said, given that athletic scholarships are currently renewed on a year-to-year basis, it’s tough to imagine Brewster being able to retain an athletic scholarship next year.

Brewster’s case is just another friendly neighborhood reminder of how young athletes are only at higher risk for having the impact of concussions compound, especially if they return to play before fully healing.

On the bright side, we’re now up to 33 states (plus the District of Columbia) with youth-concussion laws on the books.

At this point, it only appears a matter of time before all 50 states take legislative action to protect the brains of young student-athletes. Nolan Brewster is another face in a long line of athletes who can remind lawmakers exactly why they’re passing this legislation.

Photo: In this Oct. 31, 2009, photo, Texas’ Sergio Kindle, left, and Nolan Brewster wrap up Oklahoma State’s Keith Toston during an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla. Texas junior safety Brewster is quitting football because of concussions and post-traumatic migraine headaches. (Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman/AP)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.