The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

NFL MEDICAL DOCTOR OF THE YEAR!

Dr. Dan Garza escorts QB Alex Smith to the locker room
Dr. Dan Garza escorts QB Alex Smith to the locker room (Fox Sports)

10.17.13

San Francisco 49ers team physician and Stanford assistant professor Daniel Garza, MD, age 43, passed away Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at his home. Garza, an orthopaedic surgeon and emergency medicine doctor famously walked Alex Smith off of the field last year after the quarterback suffered a concussion. Although the 49ers were 6-2 and Smith was the 3rd highest rated passer in the NFL at the time, Smith never started again for the 49ers.

Below is a story from last year following the game in which Smith was injured.

11/12/12 – In a move that quickly vaults Dr. Dan Garza to the top of the list in running for NFL Medical Doctor of the Year, Garza was part of the medical staff responsible for pulling QB Alex Smith from today’s Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers game. The concussion apparently occurred during an incidental helmet to helmet hit by Cardinal linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar as the scrambling Smith slid to the turf. Even though he called little attention to the injury at the time and stayed in the game to finish the set of downs (including a 14 yard touchdown pass), when Smith returned to the sidelines he was quickly examined by the team medical staff. Head Athletic Trainer Jeff Ferguson could be seen sitting on the bench next to Smith. Soon, Smith left the sidelines and headed to the locker room accompanied by team medical director Dr. Dan Garza. A graduate of Stanford Medical School, Garza has been active in the field of concussion diagnosis and prevention. He is participating in a current concussion research project at the Stanford School of Medicine, and Garza was also recently quoted on the website, Concussion Policy & the Law, regarding the concussion assessment software, X2IMPACT currently being used by some NFL teams.

San Francisco’s seemingly successful implementation of the NFL’s Concussion Protocol policy comes at a time when it is confusing to the fans and media (and possibly the teams) to understand how and when the protocol is supposed to be administered. Last week saw an unusual sparring of medical opinions as Detroit Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson claimed he suffered a concussion after a vicious hit during the Minnesota Vikings game on October 30. For his part in the helmet to helmet hit, Viking’s linebacker Chad Greenway received a 15 yard penalty and a $21,000 fine. Johnson was helped off the field. After Johnson’s claim of a concussion that was never reported, the Lions quickly issued a statement that Johnson was evaluated on the sidelines and was determined by medical staff not to have a concussion. They claimed he was also tested the next day and found to have no concussion. Instead the Lions referred to the injury as a “stinger.” The following day Johnson also issued a written statement clarifying his previous comments and saying that he had misused the term “concussion” and instead had suffered a “stinger.” There was no word whether Johnson’s retraction was on NFL or Lions’ stationery or was actually in Johnson’s own handwriting.

 

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