ATHENS, Ga. — David Jacobs had no risk factors or family history for stroke, leading Georgia's medical staff to investigate the possibility that football contact could have contributed to his condition.
Georgia confirmed Monday that Jacobs, a junior defensive lineman who started the first eight games of the season, suffered a stroke last Wednesday night after practice.
The stroke has affected Jacobs' speech and the right side of his body.
Georgia director of sports medicine Ron Courson would not describe the severity of the stroke or speculate about Jacobs' chances to play football again.
"I think anytime you have a stroke, regardless of the severity, it is a significant event,'' Courson said.
Courson said Jacobs "never reported a head or neck injury'' but still the medical staff has examined the possibility that a hit on the football field could have led to the stroke.
"We researched this over the past four days and there are two documented cases we are aware of where a football player has received blunt trauma to the head and had a stroke in similar nature to his,'' Courson said. "It is exceedingly rare.''
Jacobs complained of dizziness and weakness after practice last Wednesday night. While he was being examined, he developed a severe headache and then his condition deteriorated.
An ambulance picked up Jacobs at the Butts-Mehre football building and transported him to Athens' St. Mary's hospital. He was airlifted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Thursday, and he continues to be listed in stable condition in Emory's intensive care unit.
In Jacobs' last game against Auburn on Nov. 10 — the Saturday before he suffered the stroke — he played more snaps than normal in the first half because Georgia's defensive line had just lost starting defensive end Bruce Adrine to a knee injury, forcing Johnathan Sullivan to move from tackle to end.
Jacobs was treated for dehydration after halftime and did not play in the third quarter. Courson said intravenous fluids solved the problem and Jacobs was able to play in the fourth quarter. He was re-examined after the game and again in the week, and Courson said there were no further signs of a problem.
Courson said the Georgia medical staff does not believe the symptoms of dehydration were related to the stroke.
"We don't feel there is a correlation,'' Courson said.
Though the stroke has affected his speech, Jacobs can talk, according to Courson, and has been visited by coaches and teammates. Jacobs eventually will be transferred to a rehabilitation hospital.
"The big advantage is he is 22 years old and he has a young, healthy brain and a young, healthy body,'' Courson said. "The typical stroke patient is much older. He has a brighter prognosis because he is young and healthy.''
Coach Mark Richt said tentative plans are being made for the team to visit Jacobs on Friday, when the team is in Atlanta for Saturday night's game at Georgia Tech.
"I saw him the night he entered into St. Mary's,'' Richt said. "I spent some time with him that evening. I got emotional, just seeing him feeling down and scared, as you would imagine.
I teared up a little bit. I guess he told Ron, ‘Don't bring Coach back, he cries too much.' ''
Richt said Jacobs' emergency forced him to put an abrupt end to the "pity party'' he was having after the loss to Auburn.
"It sure helped me put my priorities back in line,'' Richt said.
Georgia players dedicated last Saturday's 35-15 victory at Mississippi to Jacobs. Players wore his No. 99 on the back of their helmets and assistant coaches had the 99 on their red caps.
Linebacker Tony Gilbert walked off the field after the win over Ole Miss carrying Jacobs' jersey.
Said Richt: "Any positive word you could say about a player, that was David and that is David. I think that's what is going to help him on the road to recovery, his positive attitude.''
Defensive line coach Rodney Garner brought Jacobs one of the caps.
"I asked D.J. Saturday night what he thought about (fill-in starter) Kenny (Veal) playing,'' Garner said. "He said ‘(Veal) can't make any plays.' I said ‘My play-maker is laying right here.' ''
Garner said Jacobs was in "great spirits.''
"He said he'll be back next week,'' Garner said. "That's what he said.''
A fund has been established by the Georgia Athletic Association to assist Jacobs and his family with any needs which may not be covered through Georgia's catastrophic insurance program. Donations may be made to the David Jacobs Account, in care of First American Bank and Trust.
Also, cards may be sent to Jacobs at: Emory University Hospital, 1365 Clifton Road, N.E., Atlanta, Ga. 30322.
Charles Odum can be reached at CEOdum@aol.com.