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NFL Bruschi's pro career in limbo for now



Published: Sat, February 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Questions about his future are on hold until the cause of the stroke is determined.

BOSTON (AP) -- A stroke didn't keep Tedy Bruschi hospitalized for long. The question now is if it will keep him off the field for the New England Patriots.

The popular 31-year-old was released Friday from Massachusetts General Hospital after spending two days there recovering from a mild stroke that caused numbness, blurred vision and severe headaches.

He waved and smiled but didn't comment to reporters as he stepped into a waiting sports utility vehicle and drove off. Patriots spokesman Stacey James did not respond to questions about whether Bruschi would be able to play football again.

Experts say his return will depend on the stroke's cause and severity. A mild stroke isn't necessarily career-ending for a professional athlete, but the risk is higher for someone who takes the punishment of an NFL linebacker.

Doctors pointed to Bruschi's quick release from the hospital, along with reports that he was walking and talking normally a day after the stroke, as hopeful signs that he may be able to continue his career. Still, his prognosis remains uncertain because all strokes cause some level of brain damage and can raise fears of a recurrence.

"There really is no good stroke," said Dr. Larry Brass, a professor of neurology, epidemiology and public health at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Returning to play

Brian Mullen of the NHL's New York Islanders had an unsuccessful comeback attempt two years after suffering a mild stroke in 1993.

"I think the biggest thing you've got to overcome is your own mind," Mullen said. "It definitely gets in your head. You ask yourself, 'Am I doing the right thing for my family?' "

Bruschi, a nine-year veteran, has been a key member of a defense that helped New England win three of the last four Super Bowls. Last Sunday, Bruschi played in his first Pro Bowl.

His wife, Heidi, called 911 on Wednesday, saying he was experiencing "blurred vision, numbness on the right side of his body."

An estimated 700,000 people per year in the United States have strokes, which occur when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. The vast majority result from clots that block the brain's arteries. Another type involves bleeding in or around the brain, sometimes due to ruptured blood vessels.

The hospital and the Patriots have not said what kind of stroke Bruschi suffered.

Professional future unclear

Experts said it could be weeks before doctors pinpoint the stroke's cause, and Bruschi's professional future won't be any clearer until they do.

"Even if the affects of the stroke are mild, and we hope they are, the crucial thing is determining the cause," said Dr. Robert Adams, a spokesman for the American Stroke Association.

The damage from a stroke depends on several factors, including how long before it was treated, what part of the brain the stroke occurs in and the intensity of the rehabilitation.




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