Speculation is rampant after the Baltimore Raven’s first pick in the 2010 NFL draft suffered a bizarre off -field injury earlier this week. Rookie linebacker Sergio Kindle will miss training camp after fracturing his skull by falling down two flights of stairs. Numerous media outlets are linking the fall to narcolepsy. A sleep specialist might respond to these reports with a healthy dose of skepticism.
The original report came from Raven’s coach John Harbaugh. He said the fall happened when Kindle turned the wrong way after waking up in the middle of the night at a friend’s home. The linebacker’s college coach Mack Brown responded with speculation that narcolepsy led to teh incident.
Here’s the problem, a person with the type of narcolepsy that could cause a falling injury would be incapable of playing sports, let alone professional football. Narcolepsy with cataplexy causes a person who is awake to suddenly lose muscle tone. These episodes are usually triggered as a response to strong emotions such as surprise or happiness.
Wouldn’t football cause a near constant narcoleptic response based on the sport’s violent and emotional nature? What happens when a linebacker is suddenly blindsided by an offensive guard’s block? A person with narcolepsy with cataplexy would be unlikely to last more than a few plays before collapsing.
And why would a team draft a player with the condition? Kindle fell from the first round of the NFL draft, as he was originally projected. But scouts did not seem concerned with reports claiming Kindle had narcolepsy. Knee injuries and character problems caused the draft day slide. A high level Raven’s scout said the team would have never drafted Kindle if narcolepsy was such a problem.
You may remember the Sleep Education Blog covered that story earlier this year. Kindle reportedly couldn’t stay awake in team meetings when he was with the Texas Longhorns. The same reports mentioned Kindle struggled with substance abuse.
It’s impossible to say what happened in the middle of the night earlier this week, but based on medical knowledge and past reports it’s safe to say narcolepsy with cataplexy did not cause Kindle to fall down stairs and fracture his skull. Hopefully we will learn the true cause of the injury as the story unfolds.