EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As recently as last fall, only a relative handful of people were aware that Percy Harvin has suffered from debilitating migraine headaches since he was 10 years old. That group included his family, some friends and those close to the University of Florida's football program.
There should be no question now, however -- not after Harvin collapsed on the Vikings practice field, was briefly unresponsive and required emergency medical attention Thursday afternoon. After costing him one game last season, migraines have already contributed to Harvin missing most of training camp this summer. If anything, the episodes have increased in frequency since he entered the NFL and it's fair to wonder how they will impact his career in the long term.
To be sure, I don't want to minimize the impact on Harvin's life. Those who suffer from them describe it as the worst pain imaginable. And while there are thousands of people who live productive lives with them, few of them play professional football. We're in uncharted waters here.
By my count, Harvin has participated in five days of practice since July 30. The death of his grandmother and another round of migraines contributed to his subsequent 15-day absence from the team. He was scheduled to speak with reporters Thursday for the first time about that difficult stretch, and I'm sure the migraines would have been a hot topic.
It would be one thing if Harvin were a part-time player. But he was the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year last season, and the Vikings were planning to make him a centerpiece of both their offense and return teams this season. The departure of tailback Chester Taylor figures to increase his role on third downs, and the summer-long absence of fellow receiver Sidney Rice placed even more emphasis on getting Harvin back on the field.
The most concerning aspect is that Harvin has been unable to find a treatment plan that works, even after multiple trips to the Mayo Clinic and probably hundreds of other traditional and non-traditional suggestions from the public. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie said he has brought Harvin some recommendations himself.
"He said he's tried everything," McKinnie said. "Hopefully he can eventually find something."
Before Thursday, this has been an intangible and amorphous problem. Once stricken, Harvin has secluded himself from the team and public until he feels better. For it to happen in front of 100 players, coaches and reporters, McKinnie said, "kind of lets the team know exactly how hard it is."
Added McKinnie: "A lot of times it doesn't take place in front of us. So now by people actually seeing it, they see it's really not a joke."
No, it is not. And I don't think we're exaggerating to say that a career is hanging in the balance.