Concussions force QB Piland into difficult decision

David Piland has suffered at least seven concussions, including two when he was in seventh grade. |  Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

David Piland couldn’t get comfortable while lying in his hospital bed.

After sustaining a concussion on Sept. 7, he felt nauseous with any light or motion — just walking to the bathroom or too much movement by bedside guests made the junior quarterback feel sick.

Additionally, Piland couldn’t enjoy his favorite television shows, because he was suffering from blurry vision. He could hear, but not see well.

Worst of all for Piland, beyond the thought that his football career could be over, he felt like he had let his coaches and teammates down.

“I thought in the hospital, ‘This is probably it.’ It’s one of those moments where, as much as you can’t get out of bed, you don’t want to,” Piland said. “It’s hard enough to see the people who care about you came to visit, but you also feel like you’ve failed. Everything you’ve worked for … comes to an abrupt halt.”

It was tough for head coach Tony Levine to watch Piland struggle with concussion symptoms while he was in the hospital and during the 10 days at home before Piland was allowed to return to class.

“To see one of your student athletes going through that, it’s like dealing with your own child,” Levine said.

Concussions aren’t uncommon for Piland. He estimated that he has suffered at least seven since he began playing football, but a higher number is more likely. During middle school, Piland had to sit out during his eighth-grade season because he suffered two concussions in one week during seventh grade. During his tenure at UH, Piland has received at least two more concussions.

The cumulative effects of head trauma and the threat of future effects forced him to end his college football career. Piland received three different doctors’ opinions and all advised him that ending his career was the right decision.

Piland, who is set to graduate with a degree in business administration in December, said transitioning to the next phase of his life was a difficult decision. Football has been a part of Piland’s life since his childhood years.

“It was probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to decide on. Having to make this decision is letting go of everything you know — everything you’ve ever done in your life,” Piland said. “All I’ve ever done is school and football, since I can remember.”

The concussion symptoms were becoming more severe, and suffering the next concussion was a matter of when, not if.

Today, Piland said he is fully recovered. He is back to attending classes and team meetings. He said his brain scans are normal, but with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, chasing a return to football wasn’t worth it.

“I really thought I was going to come back. But then, kind of taking a step back and looking at it, it definitely wasn’t the best thing for my health to come back, even though every athlete wants to play,” Piland said.

Despite this decision, Piland’s knowledge of the playbook and experience on the field isn’t going to go to waste during his last few months as an undergraduate. He helps freshman quarterback John O’Korn prepare for games.

“As hard as it is for him, still to this day, to come up here today, he does a great job helping the quarterbacks out and being around the team that he has led over the past couple of years,” said assistant head coach Travis Bush.

Though it was tough to let go, Levine, a former college athlete, said what Piland is going through is a lesson for the other players on the team.

“It’s a reminder to our student athletes that at some point they will be done playing the game, whether it’s by injury, or by graduation or whether it’s the NFL … playing this game that they all love is going to end at some point, and when they see a teammate go through what David has, I think it gives some guys a dose of reality,” Levine said.

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  • I so wish David well and I think it’s fantastic that he wants to be around and be a student “QB coach” begin allowed to do it by the staff. Yes, his health is far more important that trying to achieve a goal that simply wasn’t meant to be. He can still enjoy football as a spectator or, more so, a coach.

  • David is a fantastic example to all of us. He’s graduating in a couple months and has fought through a lot of diversity. He could just “move on” but he’s sticking around and helping out his team. Go Coogs!

  • David is a class act. I’ll never forget his contributions to UH’s football program particularly when he was suddenly pressed into service when both our starting QB and the backup QB were injured.

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