Maier knows how it feels to be knocked out of season
Perhaps more than anyone in Carson City, Andrew Maier knows what San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young is going through these days.
Like Young, Maier knows how it feels to have a highly anticipated football season lost to an injury. Like Young, Maier knows what it feels like to stand helplessly on the sidelines and watch as your team stumbles to a losing season.
And like Young, Maier knows all too well the scary, lingering effects of multiple concussions.
Maier, a senior at Carson High, experienced four concussions within the span of nine months between October of 1998 and June of 1999. Because of the head injuries, Maier – a projected starting defensive lineman for the Carson football team – didn’t play one down for the Senators this fall. Considering he’s still recovering from his concussions, it’s unlikely Maier will ever play football again despite his desire to play at the junior college level.
And it’s not Maier’s talent, size (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) or even his family’s potential reluctance for him to return to the field that’s likely to prevent him from playing in college. The one-time solid student is worried that, with his current decreased ability to memorize information and comprehend reading, he won’t be able to play football and pass college classes simultaneously.
“I hope I get better, otherwise college is going to be tough,” Maier said. “I have no idea what I want to study in college. I don’t know what I can study in college. I just have to see if I get better.
“My GPA was 3.4, now I’m failing both my classes (English and history). I’ve been trying my hardest, trying harder than I used to, and it’s still not working very much. I can’t read for long periods of time, or my head will ache. But I’ve been getting a lot of help from my teachers and friends.”
What is unfortunate about Maier’s situation is that the two worst of his concussions weren’t football-related, but rather came about in accidents.
Maier’s first concussion occurred during Carson’s game at Wooster in the ’98 season, when the defensive tackle took a hit near the goal line and was, he believes, knocked unconscious for brief moment. Dizzy and experiencing both a stomach ache and headache, Maier went to the sideline, vomited, and then stubbornly returned to the game.
Later in the season, Maier remembers taking a another hard hit to the back of his head during the Senators’ playoff game with Reed.
“I never went to the doctor until after the season was over because I wanted to play,” said Maier, who often suffered from headaches during that season.
Maier finally went to the doctor last winter when his headaches failed to subside. A CAT scan revealed signs of two concussions on his brain.
But those concussions weren’t dangerous in the long run, as doctors told Maier that – if he took it easy – he’d be fine to play in the fall of ’99.
But then, during spring break, Maier suffered another concussion in a motorcycling accident. A rock struck Maier’s helmet when he crashed on his dirt bike, knocking him out cold for several minutes.
Maier’s hopes of playing football weren’t dampened, however, as doctors still believed Maier would be ready for the season – if he’d just take it easy.
The final blow to Maier’s head was the worst as well as unluckiest. He wasn’t participating in any dangerous activities on June 20 – he was just entering the workplace at his full-time summer job.
As he entered the facility, the opening door pulled a cord attached to a 20-pound metal halogen lamp, located directly overhead and yanked it off its restraining screw. The falling lamp caused a major gash to Maier’s head and – once again – he was knocked out cold.
Even at that point, doctors thought Maier would return for the season, at worst missing one or two games. But subsequent memory and balance tests, which Maier had to pass before he’d be cleared to play, showed that Maier wasn’t recovered from the concussions.
Five months later, he still can’t pass the memory tests.
“It’s because there’s been four concussions; if it were just one, I’d be fine,” Maier said. “My doctor thought if I’d get another concussion, it’d be over. He thought I could’ve been paralyzed or dead. Concussions get worse the more you get. That’s why the last one was so bad – it wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been my fourth.”
So instead of playing during his senior season, Maier was reduced to encouraging his friends from the sidelines while the Senators struggled to a 1-5 division record, his highlight coming when he was named a honorary captain for the Wooster Homecoming Game.
A contributing problem for the Senator’s disappointing season was that, all too often, Maier found himself watching games while standing next to Luke Chavez and Paul Mack, other defensive linemen who also spent much of the season injured.
“I was really bummed out, because all of last year I really hit the weights hard,” said Maier, who tested as one of the strongest Senator players last year with his 330-pound bench press. “And (the reason I missed the season) wasn’t even football related.”
Maier still harbors some hope of playing in junior college. He’s considering attending Sierra College, where he would likely be moved to a linebacker if he were to play again.
Before he concerns himself with next fall, however, Maier keeps focused on June 20, 2000, the one-year anniversary of his last concussion. Doctors say any improvement Maier can make before that date will be permanent; effects of his concussions lingering after that date are likely to remain with him the rest of his life.
“Before, I had seen other players with concussions, having the headaches, and I thought ‘that’s got to suck,'” Maier said. “But I didn’t realize the severity of them.”
Maier said that despite the fact he and Steve Young share the same ailment, he couldn’t give advice to the 49ers star on whether he should risk his long-term health and continue playing in the NFL.
“Football’s his job, so I really can’t put myself in his shoes,” Maier said. “To me, football is just a sport. I love the sport, but to him, it’s how he makes his money.”