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College Football Dodged a Bullet With Neiron Ball

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Last week, Florida's Neiron Ball went through a scary episode where a blood vessel in his brain ruptured and he had to be rushed to the hospital. The SBN story stream has the updates on it if you missed how it went.

My first thought was about Eraste Autin, the Florida fullback who died from complications related to extreme heatstroke after a workout in 2001. As it turns out, Ball's case was entirely different. Rather than being at a workout, he was at his dorm when extreme headaches led him to seek medical help.

The school is saying that Ball has a "congenital vascular condition," which as far as I can tell is a rather generic term. I'm no doctor, but it doesn't appear that you can really ascertain a whole lot of meaning from that.

However, I wonder if it's the kind of condition that could be discovered by a screening test of some sort. As Spencer at EDSBS cataloged in the wake of the Iowa workout scandal, the majority of college football player deaths since 2000 were related to sickle cell trait. That is something that can be screened for, and such tests have been mandatory for a few years now.

Regardless, Ball's case does bring up scary thoughts. If it could have happened when he was at rest in his dorm room, it probably could have happened at practice, or worse, in a game. In an era where head collisions are under ever more scrutiny thanks to concussions, can you imagine the black eye the sport would get if a player had a blood vessel in his brain burst on the field? Concussions and congenital vascular conditions aren't related, but facts like that have never gotten in the way of the more trollish sports columnists out there.

The good news is that Ball is on his way to a full recovery, and now with a proper diagnosis, he can get the treatment he needs. He might never play again, but that's no real concern. If his condition can be screened for, then it probably should be added to the tests that incoming athletes must pass in order to play college sports.

Thank goodness Ball made it through just fine. Let's hope that his case might raise some awareness to help prevent something similar from happening again. After all, the medical care and attention that athletes receive is probably the best most players will ever receive in their lives.