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Kentucky Football: Analyze This or Analyze That?


Remember these two movies with Billy Crystal as the psychiatrist who had mob boss Robert De Niro as a client? You can read some of the narrative here to refresh your memory. De Nero’s character, Paul Vitti, suffers from panic attacks and bouts of uncontrollable weeping. Of course, Paul Vitti would say, "I do not remember that."


Photo credit: David Shankbone

Remember Anthony John Soprano, aka Tony Soprano, from the HBO series which was played by the late and gifted James Gandolfini? Tony Soprano suffered from depression and was also prone to panic attacks. He begins to see another psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi who puts him on Prozac. During one session, Tony breaks down and cries after relating a dream about a bird stealing his, ahem, "Anthony Wiener."

As parents, we usually tell our sons that men don't cry. Hello? Men sure do cry, even Paul "Bear" Bryant. I know, you're first thought is, "You Lie!" Just call me crazy.

Here are some facts about Bryant that you may not know. Paul Bryant suffered from depression. Here's a quote from an article I will link later:

Bear Bryant said he cried often when head coach at Kentucky. He would often stop and vomit on the way to football practice and games. "I'll tell you I've cried, literally cried like a baby" over some minimal matters.

Bryant was a textbook example of depression. He felt hopelessness and insecurity. Bryant manifested the depressive symptoms of inappropriate crying, empty feelings, loss of confidence and loss of temper. He was irritable, felt miserable, had difficulty sleeping and awakened too early.

Remember Charlie Pell? Pell was a Bryant disciple who was an assistant to Charlie Bradshaw at Kentucky, became the head coach at Clemson and Florida. Pell attempted suicide in 1994 and was treated for clinical depression.

My son was the 1990 state runner-up wrestler in the 135 lb weight class for Woodford County High School. He never suffered from depression or bouts of crying, but he developed migraine headaches in his freshman year of football. I took him to see neurosurgeon and friend Dr. Bill Brooks who ordered an MRI in the brain.

The results were surprising to me. Bill told me that my son had suffered several mild concussions and his body was trying to tell him something. He said migraines are frequently seen in undersized athletes in contact sports. My son's first concussion was playing backyard baseball when his cheekbone was fractured on a foul ball. His second was in middle school during lunch break when he went out for a pass in a touch football game, caught the ball an turned around and ran into a tree. Number three was when he got hit by a car in front of the middle school, flipped over the hood and landed on the back of his head in the street.

As a 98 pound sophomore safety on the varsity football team, he was constantly trying to tackle much bigger kids and who knows how many more concussions he received. Dr. Brooks solved my under-sized son's dilemma by banning him from playing football. The migraines disappeared almost overnight. All his football buddies lamented the fact that he could play no more, but inside, my son was relieved, although he would never admit it. Just for the record, when my son finished his first year at UK, he was 5'11" and weighed 195 lbs. Late bloomer, huh?

I don't know about Tony Soprano or Paul Vitti, but Charlie Pell and Paul Bryant suffered traumatic head injuries (concussions) during their playing days and I would bet that Charlie Bradshaw suffered from them as well. We all know about the lawsuits against the NFL by players who have suffered. We all have seen boxing legend Muhammed Ali suffering from Parkinson's Syndrome which is a disease caused by head trauma.

Football isn't the only endeavor where traumatic head injury occurs. Many of our returning wounded warriors suffer from traumatic head injury. Sports and recreational activities represent only 17.1% of the head injuries in Kentucky (2nd place)while auto accidents are the leading cause in Kentucky with 34%.

As for Bear Bryant and Charlie Pell, you can read about them at The Collier Sportsmanship Group about halfway down the page in the article titled "Concussion."