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Harvin’s headaches spill onto field

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McClatchy Tribune
August 20, 2010
— Percy Harvin has dealt with migraine headaches since age 10. He missed several practices and a game last season because of the problem. He sat out two weeks of training camp this year after another episode.

But until Thursday, few knew firsthand how debilitating the problem can be. At 12:11 p.m. CDT, the Vikings’ receiver doubled over, vomited and collapsed. That began an anxious half-hour that ended with Harvin being transported from Winter Park to Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina.


Vikings coach Brad Childress, who spent much of the afternoon at the hospital with Harvin, issued a statement that read: “Percy appreciates everyone’s concern. He is alert and resting comfortably, but will remain in the hospital overnight.”


Players gathered to say a prayer for Harvin after practice, which ended early, and Childress earlier said Harvin had been “unresponsive” for a portion of time and remained “a little disoriented.” Asked if Harvin reacted as if he suffered a seizure, Childress said, “He was trembling.”


“(It) makes you understand we are playing a game here,” the coach added. “Human beings are important when they are in distress and they are your teammates.”


Said tackle Bryant McKinnie: “It’s pretty hard, and I think by this happening, it kind of lets the team know exactly how hard it is. A lot of times it doesn’t take place in front of us. So now by people actually seeing it, they see it’s really not a joke.”


A scary scene


The events that led to Harvin’s collapse began in the morning during a special-teams drill when he looked into the sky to catch a punt and felt a migraine coming on. Harvin—who rejoined the team Monday after a 15-day absence due in part to migraines—returned to the locker room, was checked on by team doctors and wasn’t on the field when the media were allowed to watch practice.


Harvin emerged after the Vikings stretched, and it was clear he would be spectator. After he collapsed, Harvin was surrounded by a group of offensive players, athletic trainers and team doctors Sheldon Burns and Chris Larson as a cart came over.


Practice continued for about six minutes before it was halted and at, 12:20 p.m., Eden Prairie police arrived, followed by an ambulance. As Harvin was placed on a stretcher and loaded into the ambulance, the Vikings resumed practice for 10 more plays at the suggestion of quarterback Brett Favre. According to Childress, Favre said, “ ‘Let’s get one period in here, let’s do something,’ as opposed to going (inside).”


Most Vikings were downcast as they left the field.


“Everybody is a little shocked right now,” linebacker Ben Leber said. “We’re concerned. Our minds are on Percy and his well-being.”


Leber and the defensive players were working on an adjacent field when Harvin collapsed.


“When you see a guy go down like that, there’s so many things that go through your mind,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “We’re such a close family out here.”


Running back Adrian Peterson is one of Harvin’s closest friends on the team. He said seeing Harvin on the field was an “eye-opener.”


“It puts things into perspective,” Peterson said. “It’s been tough for him.”


I just encourage him the best way I can. “


Tell him to pray and it will be all right. I don’t know the extent of the situation that he’s going through, because I’ve never had those migraines.”


Peterson, who later went to the hospital to visit Harvin, expressed optimism.


“I feel like he’s going to be a part of this team this season and he’s going to perform very well,” he said. “I look at things in a totally different light than a lot of other people.”


History of migraines


Harvin, who earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors last season after being the 22nd pick in the draft, dealt with migraines on a frequent basis. He missed two practices before a Week 3 victory over San Francisco, but played in the game and returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown.


Childress acknowledged after that game that the Vikings were aware of Harvin’s history with migraines when they drafted him, but admitted no one foresaw the severity and frequency with which they occurred in 2009.


“Just knew that it said ‘migraine headaches’ on the scouting report,” Childress said last season. “It wouldn’t have been a disqualifier or anything like that (if they had more information). But I think anyone that reads the scouting report, I don’t know that we would have looked into it and said, ‘Oh boy, to what extent?”‘


Harvin missed numerous practices during the remainder of the season and sat out the Dec. 13 game vs. Cincinnati. In late December, he was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.


The Pro Bowl selection admitted his migraines were so debilitating that he could not function. “It’s hard to explain them for somebody who doesn’t know them,” he said. “It got real bad to the point where I had to shut it down.”


Harvin also was hospitalized for migraines during his sophomore season at Florida, missing two games.


He left the Vikings on Aug. 1 following the death of his grandmother and missed 15 days in part because Childress said he was struggling with the headaches.


On Thursday, his teammates saw that struggle firsthand.


“Some of us knew for real that he was really suffering from it,” McKinnie said. “Maybe some other people in some of their minds they weren’t sure, but I think they are awake now to see how serious it is.”



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