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Casey Cochran taking on concussions

POSTED August 23, 2016
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

                   “I am 22-years-old. My back, neck and knees shouldn’t hurt as badly as they do. I get headaches occasionally and migraines if I cry. My eyes hurt when I roll them up and to the left. At times I feel isolated and forget all about my supportive friends and family. Most days my mind races in a panicked frenzy…….I don’t know what the future has in store for me…..I may have dementia at 50.” – Casey Cochran



            LITCHFIELD – Thirteen times he had his bell rung, a casual term that only gives a hint to what it all means. Turf to head, grass and dirt to head, helmet to head, vicious contact to head – 13 times his brain bounced around like a bunch of numbered ping-pong balls on the nightly lotto show.

            Thirteen occasions over a nine-year period that the lights went out, flickered and eventually came back on. Bad memories, hazy memories.  Thirteen times but the impact may be for all time.

            Casey Cochran was nice enough to join Tim Gaffney, Pat Tiscia and myself on our Cable-5 television show Thursday night. I am not sure we have ever done a better or more worthwhile show. Actually I am sure. Cochran made this a must-watch hour on a topic that is altering the sporting landscape and one he knows all too well – concussions.

            Unfortunately Cochran is somewhat of an expert on the topic. Fortunately Cochran is speaking out and educating those who will listen about getting your brain scrambled.

            To the eye the 22-year-old Cochran carries no long-lasting effects of his double digit’s worth of concussions. His once famous mullet is long gone but he looks good and solid the engaging smile still front and center.

            But there is deception here. What you see isn’t what you get. Cochran was hard to figure out for opposing defenses during his days at Masuk High School where he was the two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and when he was UConn’s starting quarterback in late 2013 and early 2014 before retiring after the last skull banging against BYU Aug. 29, 2014.

            It is the same here, the outward appearance gives way to the inner concussion-produced struggles. He talks of depression and the days when getting out of bed before noon doesn’t seem to be an attractive option. Class work doesn’t always come easy after posting a 3.9 GPA in high school. There is therapy and therapists.

            There is a positive outlook for the future (he is finishing up his graduate studies in sports management) but there is a scary unknown for the future produced by the known past.

            Cochran has always been a winner he is not wallowing in it all. He is not out there nor did he come to our show to tell a sad story. His new challenge, his adult challenge is to educate about CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). He wants to reduce the risk, he sees things that can and need to be done. It is all about making the future better that the past.

            If he can do his part to reduce stories like Mike Webster and Junior Seau, athletes ravaged by CTE, or even his own, let’s get on with it.  His story is part of his credibility, in that sense it is about him and you need to hear it. But he is here only to tell you about him so it won’t be you.

            Cochran bristles at the picture painted of football where all the positive benefits are emphasized and the risks and struggles downplayed.

            “Those who play football, particularly those who begin in their youth, are given the glamorized versions of the sport……and the wretchedness is ignored and swept under the rug. We fall in love and value the good and push aside the bad,” said Cochran.

            Science tells us high schools, colleges and particularly the NFL have lost their way on this issue and only recently been forced to find a way and deal with concussion devastation. Cochran particularly speaks eloquently about athletes stepping forward when hurt.

            The pressure to perform, to not disappoint and to play overpowering the common sense to tell someone when you are injured. Cochran knows, he talks about a near half-dozen concussions he never told anyone about.

            Cochran is out there now, an advocate for player safety. He has talked to legislators at the state capital and was the keynote speaker for the Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut. He is speaking at high schools. There are also plans for a book.  

            Cochran speaks with a passion that mesmerizes. He reminded me a bit about Chris Heron, the former Boston Celtic and Fall River, Mass basketball phenom who lost it all but his family to drugs and alcohol. Heron has spoken to a number of schools in the area and you don’t hear a basketball bounce of a pin drop when he speaks.

            Cochran’s impact can be the same. He always made a difference on the field. I have a feeling he’s going to make a bigger difference off of the field. Call it an hour well spent and an hour that will last a lot longer than an hour if you get the drift.

Casey Cochran is willing to help. – “If you feel alone, you aren’t. Chances are there are a lot of people out there who have some idea of what you are going through. Just keep looking. Reach out. My e-mail is One day at a time, we can make a difference.     

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