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Defensive lineman's stroke stuns Georgia
ATHENS, Ga. -- When David Jacobs walked off the practice field after knocking helmets with his teammates for two hours, no one realized anything was wrong.
Then his head began to ache. He felt dizzy. His right side became weak.
This robust, 22-year-old football player was in the throes of a stroke, leaving No. 19 Georgia in a state of shock as it prepared for its biggest game of the year against Georgia Tech.
"It's unbelievable," teammate Jon Stinchcomb said Tuesday. "Guys our age think we're invincible. You never think something as extreme as a stroke is going to happen to you in your early 20s."
Jacobs, a starting defensive tackle for the Bulldogs, was in stable condition in the intensive care unit at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital. Stricken after last Wednesday's practice, he was flown from Athens by helicopter.
The stroke affected Jacobs' entire right side. He's having trouble moving his arm and leg and struggling to talk.
When his condition improves and doctors determine he's not at risk of having another stroke, Jacobs will begin extensive rehabilitation. His age should help the recovery process, but there's no talk of him ever returning to football.
"David Jacobs is alive and well," coach Mark Richt said, "but the things he spent a lot of time doing are gone for him now."
In Jacobs' last game for the Bulldogs, a Nov. 10 loss to Auburn, he had more plays than usual in the first half because of injuries on the defensive line.
By halftime, he was dizzy, disoriented and had lost weight. Team doctors determined he was suffering from dehydration and gave him IVs. Jacobs felt well enough to return to the game in the final quarter.
Ron Courson, the school's director of sports medicine, said Jacobs was re-evaluated after the game and given additional tests throughout the following week. His weight returned to normal -- 265 pounds -- and he showed no other symptoms.
"We don't feel that was related," Courson said. "We feel that was dehydration."
Jacobs passed a balance test on the morning of the stroke, Richt said.
"You never, ever say what are you going to do to prevent a guy from having a stroke," he said. "Players don't have strokes. Young people rarely have strokes."
The stroke wouldn't appear to be heat-related. The temperature was around 70, with low humidity, on the day of Jacobs' final practice.
"A blow could have been the cause of it, or it could be one of those hereditary things," Richt said. "If it was a blow, you don't know if it came in the Florida game or the Auburn game or practice. Some things take time to develop."
Jacobs never complained of a problem during his last practice, Richt said. The other players didn't notice anything wrong.
Jacobs was stricken as he cooled down in the training room. Richt got word from the wife of an assistant coach that one of his players was in trouble. After rushing downstairs from his office, he could tell right away it was serious.