Concussions May End Aikman's Career

ByStephen Hawkins

I R V I N G, Texas, Dec. 12, 2000 -- Quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Steve Younghave similar Hall of Fame credentials. Soon, they might havesomething else in common: retirement.

Aikman went to six straight Pro Bowls and led Dallas to threeSuper Bowl titles in the 1990s. Young was a seven-time Pro Bowlselection in San Francisco and won the Super Bowl in 1995 — theonly one not won by Aikman and the Cowboys between 1992 and ’96.

On the NFL’s career passing yardage list, Young is 18th with33,124 yards, followed right behind by Aikman’s 32,926 yards.

Series of Concussions

But like Young last year, Aikman is facing serious questionsabout his career after a series of concussions. When he sits downafter this season to assess his future, Aikman will be talking toLeigh Steinberg, his agent, who also represents Young.

“When the season is over, Troy and I will sit down for a longdiscussion about his health and what makes sense for his future,”Steinberg said Monday. “The season has never been an ideal timefor long-term decisions.”

Aikman’s 12th NFL season almost definitely over.

His already uncertain future was clouded even more Sunday whenhe suffered his second concussion of the season, and 10th of hiscareer after being tackled in the first quarter by Washingtonlinebacker LaVar Arrington.

Young retired in June after suffering three concussions in fourseasons.

Now, Aikman has four concussions in his last 20 starts — overabout 14 months.

Aikman didn’t talk to reporters after the 32-13 victory over theRedskins on Sunday or at the Valley Ranch practice facility Monday.

Today, coach Dave Campo confirmed that Aikman will not playSunday’s final home game against the New York Giants. He said the decision was based on medical evaluations and discussions withdoctors and team officials.

Steinberg, said Monday that it was unlikely Aikman would playagainst the Giants. His status for the season finale Christmasnight at Tennessee also is in question.

“We certainly want to err on the side of caution,” Steinberg said. “Obviously, that many concussions gives rise to concern.”

Like Whipped Cream on Jell-O

Dr. Hal Unwin, an associate professor of neurology at theUniversity of Texas Southwest Medical Center in Dallas, said somestudies have shown that concussions can have a cumulative impact,but individual effects vary.

“The brain moves around and parts of the brain move indifferent speeds than other parts of the brain, kind of likewhipped cream on Jell-O. Sometimes you can have some of the nervestorn if you get hit hard enough,” Unwin said.

Even if Aikman wants to come back, Dallas owner Jerry Jonesfaces a March 8 deadline on whether to pay Aikman a $7 millionbonus.

Aikman, the first player Jones ever drafted, can be releasedbefore the deadline without being given any money. Regardless ofwhat happens, however, he will count at least $10 million againstDallas’ salary cap next season.

Unlike the concussions that have come later in his career,Aikman has a chronic back problem that stems from the pounding hetook early, including his 1-15 rookie season of 1989. The back gotso bad this season that for the first time in his career he neededpainkilling shots to play a game.

Aikman has missed part or all of six games this season, fourbecause of concussions and two with back pain.

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