Tradition is a big deal at D.C. United. The word is savored by fans, routinely falls from the lips of club officials and even adorns the back collar of the team’s jerseys.
Yet one regrettable occurrence has become another tradition around RFK Stadium: head and neck injuries and their lingering, unsettling aftereffects. Alecko Eskandarian, Josh Gros and Dominic Mediate have all seen their careers ended or sidetracked by concussions in recent years, and now Bryan Namoff is the latest United player to suffer from one of the most confounding areas of injury in modern sports.
“Still day to day, still monitoring my symptoms,” said United’s veteran right back when asked about his current status after a recent D.C. training session. “I’m not trying to progress too fast, but just take it easy and monitor each and every day and hopefully each week proves to be better than the last.”
Sidelined indefinitely since sustaining whiplash in a Sept. 12, 2009, match against Seattle Sounders FC, Namoff has little idea when, or to what extent, he’ll get relief from the headaches, soreness and blurred vision that have plagued him since the injury.
After months of drastic limitations on his exercise and movement, Namoff was happy to rejoin his teammates on the practice field in the final stages of their 2010 preseason. But he remains restricted to modest cardiovascular activity and light ball work as the D.C. medical staff waits for his troubles to subside, regulating his heart rate so as not to disturb the healing process in his neck, brain and upper back.
“There’s a lot of guesswork involved,” said Namoff.
As he emphasizes, every case of this type is unique. The experiences of former teammates like Eskandarian and Gros, both of whom returned to action following head injuries only to be pegged back by resultant complications, have given Namoff and his caregivers ample cause for caution. Yet that has also left him in a strange sort of limbo that is, in its own way, even more frustrating than comparable maladies with clearly defined solutions and recovery cycles.
“Yeah, mentally, it’s been my toughest challenge,” admitted the Bradley University product. “But it’s definitely made me a stronger person and it’s one I’m taking in stride … I’m not trying to forecast anything—just taking it one day at a time.”
The situation has jarred Namoff’s steady personal progression from utility midfielder to workaday defender to grizzled leader. Following the retirement of midfielder Ben Olsen, he became United’s primary representative to the players’ union and took part in the exhausting—and memorable—final rounds of collective bargaining negotiations on March 18 and 19.
“It was a great experience to be a part of that bargaining process,” Namoff said. “In the end, we’re happy to get a deal done, we’re happy not to have any type of work stoppage. I think it’s an exciting time and it builds a better relationship with the players and the league.”
Asked about the flurry of late CBA proposals and counter-proposals, Namoff explained how the final couple of days unfolded.
“It was about a 17-hour bargaining process on Thursday and about a 14-hour process on Friday,” he said. “But not one representative left from each team, everyone stayed in the room, as hard as that was, to be going like that until the wee hours of the morning. That level of commitment and unity from each representative really showed the dedication that everyone had.”
Now he’s doing his best to stay connected to his United cohorts despite his own indeterminate condition, in the hopes of a seamless transition when he finally gets the medical go-ahead.
“The focus now is to try to get me integrated with the team,” he said. “It is a new team this year, there’s been a lot of changes and just making sure that I can at least establish my presence even if it’s on the sidelines right now, making sure that I can meet everyone, be on a first-name basis and build the chemistry from the inside.”