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Concussion concerns for Virginia Tech DE Chris Drager

By Mark Giannotto

When the athletic department release came out Tuesday detailing why Virginia Tech defensive end Chris Drager would miss Saturday's game against North Carolina, the terminology used stuck out. The team said the fourth-year junior was out because of "lingering effects from a hit he took late in the Georgia Tech game.”

Because Drager suffered a slight concussion earlier in the season against Central Michigan, the natural question is whether the delicate phrasing was simply coding for Drager's second concussion in a month. But when asked Tuesday during his weekly news conference, Coach Frank Beamer wouldn't clarify whether it was a concussion or not.

This morning, I asked head athletic trainer Mike Goforth to explain if "lingering effects from a hit" meant Drager was suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Here was his response:

"That's kind of the way we're keeping it, to be honest, just out of respect to him," Goforth said. "That's what him and his family would like us to release at this point."

Given the recent revelations about concussions and their long-term effects on football players, this isn't an issue to take lightly. The way team officials are tiptoeing around Drager's status is something that shouldn't be ignored. The team's release said it expects Drager to play against Miami on Nov. 20, but Goforth said it's more like "we hope he's ready for the Miami game."

Goforth said Virginia Tech has been conducting helmet-research studies for seven years now and the psychological and balance testing the school uses to diagnose concussions is "still above the recommended guidelines that are out now." The only recent change, Goforth said, was more NCAA-mandated player education on concussions.

According to Goforth, Drager is the only Virginia Tech football player to suffer a concussion this year. But head injuries are a constant source of anxiety for any football team's medical staff.

"It worries me any time we have somebody with a concussion because we don't know what any of the long terms effects of any of them are," Goforth said. "Obviously that concerns me. We keep a running list of everyone in our program who's had one and try to get an honest answer out of all of them about what they've had in high school. That's the tough thing, trying to figure out their health issues before they go to us."

As much as the Hokies would like their starting defensive end back sooner rather than later, let's hope Drager's long-term health is given full consideration whenever the Hokies' medical staff determines whether he's able to return to the field.

By Mark Giannotto  | November 11, 2010; 1:47 PM ET
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