Wilson 'blessed to be back' as he looks to the future

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Last season, then-sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson suffered a concussion against Arizona State following a rushing attempt for a touchdown in a 20-19 loss.

Wilson underwent tests after the game and learned he had suffered a concussion. Further tests were ordered to check out a problem doctors discovered during the concussion testing.

After further tests, doctors learned Wilson had suffered an injury to an intracranial artery. Often, an injury to an intracranial artery is the result of some form of trauma — getting hit in the head, for example. And with Wilson playing football, where the chance of getting hit in the head is a major possibility, the outlook was bleak for his playing career.

Whether Wilson suffered the injury as a result of a concussion is unknown, but doctors at the time said that “a pre-existing condition was discovered.” Team doctor David Petron said that the injury was likely a result of previous injury and would not be life-threatening.

Wilson could have suffered the injury in practice or in some other form of contact not even related to football.

“Presumably these things are occurring in people and a lot of them don’t even know that they’ve had it, if they’ve had an injury in the past or if they have a particular susceptibility to a dissection of an artery,” said Dr. William Couldwell, chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Utah.

I was definitely really scared. Thoughts were going on around my head about not being able to possibly play football again. But I definitely had my family behind me and the coaches behind me; they were really positive influences on me.

–Travis Wilson

With no clear answers to Wilson’s future as a football player, worry started to sink in for the sophomore.

“I was definitely really scared,” Wilson said. “Thoughts were going on around my head about not being able to possibly play football again. But I definitely had my family behind me and the coaches behind me; they were really positive influences on me.”

The hopes of a winning season and a consistent quarterback for the Utes also seemed less-than optimistic. The health of Wilson was always a top priority for the university, but a brain injury was anything but positive.

“Travis is a tough, competitive kid and very upset by this, obviously,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said in November. “He’s disappointed, to say the least. He was a good part of what we’re doing, and we’ll miss him as our starting quarterback. But most importantly is his long-term health.”

Wilson was sidelined for the remainder of the season and was not allowed to participate in any form of physical labor, meaning no practice or lifting weights in case of further injury to the damaged artery. With the possibility that football could be out of the question forever, Wilson was left waiting, hoping later tests would change the then-negative news.

“It was frustrating and was definitely a long process,” Wilson said.

With nothing really to do to heal from the injury, all Wilson could do was wait, hoping the artery would stabilize and the possibility of playing football again would become a reality.

“Those three months I just had to wait and wait for the next scan and wait to hear what the doctor says,” he said. “There’s not much I could do during those three months.”

Wilson underwent a follow-up test in February and was cleared to participate in spring training. The only restriction was that Wilson could not participate in any contact drills until a later check up in July could give a better assessment of Wilson’s health.


“I’m just looking to go forward from this,” Wilson added. “I’m blessed to be back out here on the field. I just want to keep playing football and keep living out my dreams. Obviously it’s something that happened, but it’s not going to be something that holds me back.”

Wilson is still not in the clear to play football and will know more this summer. But Couldwell said in most instances an injury to an intracranial artery heals by itself and a person can resume normal activities.

"It heals on its own in most cases," Couldwell said. "After the artery is healed, probably very little risk. … If the artery has a chance to heal itself, it usually heals well, in time."

Although Wilson’s future is still unknown, he said he’s approaching it as if everything is back to normal.

“I just know that I’ve got to be better than I was last year and I’ve got to make sure that I compete at every practice,” he said. “There’s a lot of good quarterbacks behind me and I know they’re going to be gunning for my job, so I’ve just got to make sure I’m doing my part and just doing the best I can and progressing more than I did last year.”

Whittingham said it’s good to have the starting quarterback back in the mix competing for the job again.

“He’s progressed each day and his weight is coming back; he dropped a lot of weight because he wasn’t able to get in the weight room,” Whittingham said. “Everything is starting to come back together for him and my guess is by the end of spring he’ll be tuned up and ready to go.”

As for the possibility about whether the injury will return, Wilson said he doesn’t worry about it and doesn’t let it affect his abilities as a quarterback.

“It’s not something that I really worry about,” he said. “It’s a condition that I have and something I’ll have to get checked on for the rest of my life. But it’s not something that’s going to hold me back from playing football.”

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