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By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor - Archive - Email
The Buck should stop
Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - If numbers don't lie, then these numbers should set off the alarm bells.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce has started 60 CFL games. In 23 of those games, he had to leave because of injury.

Saturday night, Pierce, who was making only his second start this season after missing eight games with a foot injury, had to leave the game against Toronto Argonauts, after he suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit from Argos linebacker Brandon Issac, who received a 15-yard penalty.

Pierce missed two series, went to the dressing room to get stitches for his chin, returned to play most of the second quarter, then didn't return.

The next day, Winnipeg interim head coach Tim Burke was asked if Pierce should retire.

"Everybody's a doctor" Burke bristled.

"A lot of people are saying he should retire. You hear all these things, 'Oh, he's had seven concussions,' which is absolutely not true. He's never had that many concussions. I don't know how many he's had, but it's not even close to that."

What's concerning is Pierce admitted to having a headache after the hit.

"His headache is not nearly as severe as it was in the second half of the game," Burke said. "So, they're cautiously optimistic. He's going to be evaluated for the next few days, and we'll know something probably Wednesday or Thursday. There's going to be a neurologist involved, as well as our team doctors and Alain (Couture, team trainer)."

Last season, in the opening game of the CFL season, Pierce was blindsided on a blitz from Hamilton linebacker Jamall Johnson. Pierce's head hit the turf, dislodging his helmet.

In 2009, Pierce suffered a vicious hit from Toronto defensive end Claude Harriott. Various media reports said Pierce was vomiting on the sidelines after the hit. He missed three starts after he was diagnosed with a concussion.

When he was member of the BC Lions, Pierce was knocked unconscious after a clean hit from Saskatchewan linebacker Maurice Lloyd. He started the next game, even after Vancouver newspapers quoted the Lions' head trainer as saying Pierce suffered a concussion.

Pierce also has been the recipient of other head-to-head shots in previous years and even admitted to the Vancouver Sun that he suffered a concussion when he played at New Mexico State in 2002.

While the tackle was vicious enough, what was more disturbing was the sight of Pierce, on the sideline, trying to drink from a cup, with his hand shaking.

Pierce should look closely at the case of Matt Dunigan, the Hall of Famer, whose career ended in 1996 after he suffered multiple concussions.

Sixteen years later, Dunigan admits he still suffers from post-concussion syndrome. He has already gone on record as saying he will donate his brain to science after he dies, so doctors can continue to examine the possible link between repeated concussions and late deterioration brain function.

Saturday night, on the TSN panel after the Bombers' game, Dunigan gave an impassioned plea for Pierce to retire.

To its credit, the CFL is using a computerized system that is considered the leading technology in the sports industry.

In addition, all player concussion assessments are left solely and strictly in the hands of team medical personnel and therapists.

In other words, coaches have no influence over when an athlete is to be cleared to play.

One hopes the Bombers' brass does the right thing and sits Pierce down for the remaining five games of the year.

As most players do, Pierce will eventually decide when it's time to retire.

One fears that he may make that decision one hit too late.

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.

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