LSU forward Eddie Ludwig nabs a rebound against McNeese State forward Pete Kpan on Nov. 12, 2012, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Ludwig, who has averaged 2.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game in his career, has sat the Tigers’ past 17 games with post-concussion illness.
Since early January, LSU senior forward Eddie Ludwig has sat out all 17 of the Tigers’ SEC games with recurring health-issues from concussions. Specifically, he endures days where quick on-set headaches and dizziness can beset him during periods where he has a heavy reading load for class or complex analytic situations in his two economics courses. In early February, a stress test ruled out a return to the floor. Consulting with a neurologist and LSU’s medical staff, he decided to step away fully from the program.
On Saturday against Ole Miss, the Metairie native and Country Day product will be honored during Senior Day festivities. But he will not suit up and will not see the floor. Increasingly, concussions are becoming a recurring issue in college basketball. Ludwig serves as a prime example of how they occur: A blow suffered during a rebound or in a scrum for a loose ball. My story details the situation, but space constraints limited touching on every aspect.
So, I’ve posted the full transcript of my 20-minute sitdown with Ludwig on Thursday. Read all of it. Skim it. Do whatever, but if you read the study posted in the link above and Ludwig’s comments, you’ll have a deep grasp of the issue.
How did you get this first concussion?
“It happened in practice. I took an elbow. Really, there were two concussions. They had happened within a 10-day span. I got one, came back and was fine, or thought I was fine, at least. I got cleared medically, and everything seemed OK. Then I got hit again in the head. Apparently, it wasn’t. That really was the tipping point.
Can you recall what exactly happened to give you the first one? It happens, but there’s not a strong association between concussions and basketball.
It happened right before SEC play, and right in a period where we didn’t have any games. So the timing was good. I sat out about two or three days and was able to come back and practice. I didn’t miss any games because of it. The second one was around Jan. 10, and that’s the one that’s put me out.
Was it a scrimmage session, individual drills? When did it happen during the workout?
We were running through Florida scout team, and just happened while we playing scout.
That’s not a period most people would think it would take place, walking through another team’s sets?
We were scrimmaging it and playing 5-on-5, but it happens more than people think. I’ve talked to some people recently about it, and they act really surprised. Every year I’ve been here, there’s been someone with a concussion, or concussion issues. It’s not an uncommon thing.
Were those the first time you sustained a concussion? Had there been previous ones?
I’ve had one in high school and had one here before. It was a combination of a lot of things building up to that, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
You played football in high school (at Country Day). Did one come from that?
“When I was a sophomore, I had a pretty severe one, but I was fine after that. Then I had one or two my freshman and sophomore year (at LSU), and then those two consecutively.
Who clipped you in the scout team session?
“I couldn’t even tell you. I don’t remember.
Did your head strike the floor?
“No, it was some elbow or some other body part, but it hit me right on my chin and caught me.”
You’ve had them before, so did you immediately have some recognition that something was amiss or off?
“You can ask the guys. I knew right away this was different. This wasn’t going to be good for me, because I’d known from before that if you got a concussion and you had a second one you’d be out for an extended period of time. That’s the first thing that came to my mind, ‘I’ve had a concussion, now I have another one. I’m not going to be seeing the floor anytime soon.’ It was an immediate headache, and I knew the next thing that was going to come.
When did you have to get restested by doctors to see if you might be cleared?
“It was about a month after it happened and my symptoms seemed to be lessening. Things seemed like they were headed the right direction, and I was eager to get back. They put me on a stress test. And I failed.”
What were the symptoms? Nausea? Headaches from light?
“It’s not so much light that’s as big of a factor for me. I’ll just randomly get headaches, and they’ll stay for a while. I’ll have some dizzy spells, too. I never know when it will happen, but it happens a good bit of the time. So, I’m just trying to get better each day.”
When did you have the stress test, or what did you he have you do?
I’ve been seeing a neurologist about once a week since the concussion. They’ve really done everything in their power to get me better, and when the time came that I felt I was able to handle a stress test, I was cleared by a neurologist. I went with our trainer and went through a workout, and things seemed like they were OK. I jumped on an eliptical and within a minute — we were trying to get my heart rate up to 130 (beats per minute) — was really the first time in a month. The symptoms came back right away. That’s when we knew it was going to be a longer time frame for me.”
What goes on in those weekly check-ups now? Is it about purely managing symptoms?
Really, he’s just asking me about my symtpoms and what are the causes of my headaches. Just different techniques and strategies for how to prevent them. What medicines I need to take. It’s really just him trying to give me advice and tell me what to expect in trying to get me better.
You said the headaches come on at odd times? Do you notice triggers?
They come on randomly. They come on trying to memorize things or study for a test. That’s really what triggers them, or studying for a test. Each day I’ve noticed it gets better and better. It’s just a really slow process, which being an athlete you can play with a sprained ankle and play through the pain. You really can’t play through a head injury like this. It’s not going to get better. It’ll just get worse quickly, and the recovery time is already long and not really set.
What sorts of medications do you take?
I’m not even sure what they’re called. I know I just take them before I go to sleep.
It sounds like a double-whammy. You said you had a test today and a group project last night. What is your way of coping with those burdens and the symptoms?
That’s really been one of the biggest issues for me. I’m not able to drop any classes and graduate on time, which is why I’ve really stepped back from things that cause me to have my symptoms and just focus on my school work. If I start to feel like I’m going to have a headache, I step back, go to my apartment, lay down and wait for it to go away.
What’s your course load like, or schedule, I should say?
I’ve got two economics classes. That’s my major. I’m in 12 hours now, and I really just don’t want to drop anything. It’s just getting really detailed in graphs, and it’s a lot, especially when you’re having these symptoms and it’s requiring a lot of studying.
How much do you lean on the academic center?
“They’ve been great. I’ve gotten notes from the doctor to give to my professors, who’ve been great and really understanding. They’ve been more than willing to work with me, which has been a lifesaver. The test I took today, I was supposed to take last week, but they moved up to this week because I was having issues and let me be symptom free for a couple days. I just really appreciate it.”
Have you ever been given a window for when they think there might be progress?
Not really. That’s probably the most frustrating thing. You just really want to be able to come back and be like I was before this. You just have to be patient, really listen to your body, note what symptoms your having, when they happen and do whatever you can to make sure they don’t come back. The longer from the period of the the injury, the better I get. It’s a steady progression, but then there might be a setback.”
What can you do with the group? If anything at all?
“I still stay in touch with the guys. I text them on the road when I can’t be with them, which has been the last two road games. That’s been really tough for me. Even when I had the injury, I didn’t miss any games because I was focused on getting back and didn’t want to lose touch with any of the guys or the team. I was there for every step at every practice. But once my symptoms started getting worse, I talked with the doctors, and they said I needed to step back and kind of chill out. So, I still try to stay in touch and be a vocal leader, because I am a senior. I love my teammates and want to encourage them in whatever they do. They’ve been playing really well, and that lifts me up. I was watching last night on the WatchESPN app, which is weird but is what it is.”
What could you do in practice when you weren’t playing? I’ve seen guys act as another assistant in scouts and individuals, and help process lessons out of film reviews.
I was getting better leading up to that stress test, so I was able to get out there and work with the posts, and I’ve been in that position the last three years. If I saw little footwork things, or pump fakes they needed to do, I could pull them aside and tell them. I just wanted to be in a position to help. Since my symptoms have been worse, I haven’t been able to do that.
When did you tell them? And how did that unfold?
It was after the stress test, and it was apparent to everyone that this was going to a longer thing than we’d planned it to be. It was not just getting back to playing back to basketball, but back to life.
Did you ever mull taking the semester off? A medical clearance would have left the slate clean.
“There’s a part of me that thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to handle this course load.’ But never did I think I would take a withdrawal or leave of absence. My goal is to graduate on time, and it’s an issue — but one I’m fighting with to make happen.
How involved have your parents (Tripp and Lisa) been in the recovery process?
They’ve been up a couple times whenever I’ve needed help with something, and been up to the games to come see me and taking me out to eat. My mom is constantly in contact with me, seeing if I need anything. She’s talking to all of her doctor friends. One of my friends from high school had issues with concussions, and she’s been talking to his family about what they did for him to get rid of his symptoms and handle certain situations. She’s been great. My dad’s been great.
How different is it to lose your routine?
It’s tough. It was different when you’re still around the team everyday, at every meeting at all of the film sessions. I was still invovled mentally, but just couldn’t do the physical part. Now that I’ve fully stepped back, I’m not able to travel on the road, it’s definitely difficult. It’s not something I like at all. It can be difficult to watch the games on TV, because you want to be there and support them.”
What did you do last night?
I actually texted Charles (Carmouche) after the game. My mom called me and told me she wanted to tell Charles congratulations and how proud she was for him. We grew up playing basketball together on the same AAU teams until when we were in college. We’ve got a really close relationship. I text all the guys and wish them luck for the game.”
How much more notoriety do you notice the injury getting in basketball circles now?
“That’s been one of the more interesting things for me — the progression of what people look at when we talk about concussions. With all the news coming out about the NFL and how we’re supposed to handle it. I remember when I got my first concussion in high school and then I got my second one, the doctors told me we handle them on a case-by-case basis and not really as a history. In a matter of three years, it’s changed. These things do relate. They correlate, and we have to look at the whole body of work — not just one instance. That’s been interesting to see, especially the changes in policy.