Monday, February 4, 2013



I am drawn these days to the popular sports headlines which is all about concussions. I've cycled myself back some 60 years ago to1953, back to waking up in a strange environment between clean white sheets and an antiseptic oder.

When I finally realized where I was, I tried to figure out why, what happened ? My last waking moments before that current situation became a murky memory of the past afternoon. You see, then, I was on a football field at practice during a scrimmage between the freshman squad and Penn State College's traveling team. I played right guard on the freshman squad and we were on defense. The freshman always took next Saturday's opponent's lineup so I was over center in a traditional 5 - 3 defense the opposing team was figured to use against State on Saturday afternoon.

In full pads State ran a series of its favorite plays : off tackle, up the middle, a flat pass, and a wide swing around end. Our freshman squad bent, bowed, and broke under the pressure of a formative team in mid-season form. We youngsters had become hardened by then and took physical punishment fairly well though we were an inferior team overall to the main squad.

It was a wide swing around right end by a former high school star that I had played against when Pottstown played Norristown who ended my afternoon. Charlie Blockson, who many might know these days as the
foremost authority of Black History in our area, was the runner. His job was to get around right end or, if the defense out flanked him, he was to plant his outside foot and cut straight up field. We met as he cut, my head between him and the direct line to the end zone. Charlie, for those who knew him, had the thinest ankles and calfs for a man his size. His lack of size in his lower legs was more than made up by the huge mass of muscle compacted up in his thighs. He could run, could jump, and he could certainly pack a wallop with his legs which knocked me out cold. His running records in High School may still exist today as maybe also his state records in the discus and shot put.

I was knocked out cold and, I imagine, incurred a concussion by today's standards. I have no idea just how long I remained unconscious nor how I reacted to, what then some sixty years ago, was the normal medical attention given persons in my condition. When released the next afternoon it was too late for practice, but the day after, I was on the field in full pads and had completely forgotten on having been knocked out except, some members of the freshman team told of Charlie going down too, like a bag of potatoes, this was my only consolation.

Over my short career, I was hospitalized twice more, an ankle and influenza ; I was awarded the Game Ball for my play against Pittsburg's freshman team ; the man who took my starting position, Sam Valentine, garnered All American Honors in 1956. Short, that my career was, I was surrounded with some notable players of that era : Lenny Moore, Rosey Grier, Jesse Arnelle, Milt Plum, Richie Lukas, Billy Kane, Dan Ratakovich, Jim Garrity , and, oh, so many more.

To my knowledge, I was never diagnosed as having a concussion but, if it happened today, I'm sure more medical follow up would have taken place. Some friends over the years will understand now, " Why I am, like I am ". Kidding aside, I've never had further complications, even though, over the years I've been dazed at least four more times, these without loosing consciousness.

Ronald C. Downie

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