CHAPEL HILL — Junior tight end Zack Pianalto, who sustained a mild concussion during last Thursday’s loss to Florida State, returned to practice Sunday and is listed as “probable” to play Thursday at Virginia Tech.
“We’ve got the leading experts in the entire field,” coach Butch Davis said. “They immediately do [tests] at the ball game. Then they test him and reevaluate him the next day. They deemed him healthy and ready to go.”
How is Pianalto ready to play so soon after the concussion?
Scott Trulock, the team’s head athletic trainer, said there are various degrees of concussions, just like ankle or knee injuries. After Pianalto sustained his concussion, he was examined by the team doctor Mario Ciocca. After the game, he was examined again, and the symptoms appeared to already be gone. The following day – Saturday – Pianalto went through a neurocognative test that examined things such as memory and balance; that was compared to the baseline test players undergo each summer, and he passed. Finally, Pianalto was put through a battery of cardio “stress” tests to see if the symptoms would return. When they didn’t, he was cleared to practice Sunday.
By comparison, defensive back Jordan Hemby, who also sustained a concussion against the Seminoles, is listed as “doubtful” for Thursday’s game because his symptoms persisted for several days.
Davis said that to the best of his knowledge Pianalto is 100 percent.
“We wouldn’t play him if he wasn’t,” Davis said.
Also listed as probable Tuesday: center Lowell Dyer, who has been sidelined since last month with a shoulder injury. Fellow offensive linemen Jonathan Cooper and Kyle Jolly, who returned to the starting lineup last week, are also probable to play.
— Robbi Pickeral and Brian Conlin