The hit that put Walker Williams’ brain over the edge — leaving him with ongoing headaches, mood swings, ringing in his ears, depression, anxiety and short-term memory problems — was nothing out of the ordinary.
The University of Wisconsin football team had the ball and was lined up against Northwestern’s defense during a November 2015 game in Camp Randall Stadium. With 13:29 left in the second quarter, the ball was snapped, and the Badgers’ offensive line sprang into motion.
The clock ticked down to 13:28, and Williams, an offensive lineman, blocked a Northwestern player from moving toward the ball carrier. Their helmets collided — something that happens all the time in football.
A second later, Williams’ mind went blank. He stayed in for the next four plays, but he is not sure why. He does not remember any of them.
When Williams came over to the sidelines, “it was quite clear that I was not okay,” he said. His “speech was off” and he “wasn’t all there,” so associate head coach Joe Rudolph took him out of the game. Williams remembers bits and pieces of the episode, such as sitting on the bench and getting evaluated in the training room.
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