Schrock says Humphries is likely to have already suffered brain damage, " 'Concussion' is an old neurology term," she says. "In my field we don't use that term. Instead we say, 'mild head injury' or 'mild brain damage.' In this whole discussion [of Humphries and other professional athletes] nobody says 'brain damage.' It has this bad connotation.
"Neuropsychology starts where neurology stops," Schrock says of her field. "It is the study of the relationship between mind and brain or brain and behavior in the broadest sense. Clinical neuropsychology is an applied science that looks at the behavioral expression of brain dysfunction. It's right smack in the middle between neurology and psychology."
When a person suffers a head injury, a neurologist can give a "mental status test. If they fail that, they're in pretty bad shape. But just because they pass, it doesn't mean they're okay," Schrock says.
The effects of brain damage, even so-called mild brain damage, can be pervasive, she says. A complete battery of tests is needed to measure "concentration, reasoning, problem-solving, emotion," and other manifestations of brain activity.
"Your brain is the organ of self-awareness, so when it doesn't function so well, your self-awareness isn't so good either." That makes it dangerous to expect Humphries -- or any injured athlete -- to know when to stop playing. "A lot of what we deal with is not denial in the psychological sense, which is when you block something out because it's too painful to bear. With brain injury, it's lack of self-awareness because of the brain injury."
Brain-injured patients are likely to suffer an array of symptoms. Most important for an athlete are slower reaction time, lack of judgment, and a tendency to tire rapidly.
"It's more of a loss of efficiency, as opposed to a total loss of function," Schrock says. "The old computer is not working as fast it used to, like being a 33N rpm record in a 78 world. Information-processing speed is probably the number-one problem with a mild injury." Patients also experience "more day-to-day variability than those who haven't suffered brain damage.
"Like no other injury man has experienced, it changes the essence of who you are. You've lived with yourself for 30 years, and that changes in an instant. It takes a few years to get used to that." People persist in "using old strategies to use old strengths and weaknesses, so people have a rough couple of years."
Even if Humphries saw a neuropsychologist, "I'm sure they're not going to say", Schrock continues. "When I was a graduate student in Houston, the Houston Astros' star pitcher, J.R. Richard, right before the All-Star Game [in 1980], had a little stroke. A blood clot formed in his arm and traveled to his brain.
"'He'll be back in six months,' all the papers were saying, and all the graduate students said, 'That's it for him, he'll never be back.' The newspapers always play up how he'll be back, but you can't take an edge off someone who's the best of the best and have him still be competitive. The PR aspect of it is never going to let the public know. Look at [Reagan press secretary] James Brady; they all said he was going to get better." Richard recovered physically, but the stroke effectively ended his baseball career.
In a curious way, Stan Humphries is among the luckier victims of concussion, Schrock says. The hit he took was so hard that it knocked him out, leaving no question that he had been injured.
People who have suffered concussions under less dramatic circumstances have a harder time, Schrock says. "They are told, 'Go home and you'll be fine,' and when they aren't, they think they're going crazy."