SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 5, 2014

Jean DePlacido column: Murphy helping to hope those who suffer from same concussions he did

Jean DePlacido
The Salem News

---- — F.J. Murphy has known more than his share of serious football injuries. But instead of giving up, the Salem resident has found ways to remain active in the sport he loves.

Murphy saw his senior year at St. John’s Prep end before the 2012 season began when he blew out his knee in a scrimmage. He didn’t sit on the sidelines, though; instead, he remained with the team the rest of that incredible Super Bowl season helping coach Jim O’Leary in any way he could. In fact, after the Eagles’ Thanksgiving Day win at Xaverian that clinched a playoff berth, O’Leary gave the game ball to Murphy.

He is now a student at Endicott College and wanted to continue playing football, but in preseason practices last year Murphy suffered concussions two days in a row. That ended his career, but he is now actively involved in helping to make the game safer for others. His goal is to bring the Impact Test to Endicott to provide help for other athletes.

“I was at camp in late August when I got two concussions in the same weekend,” said Murphy, a criminal justice major who is also a part-time student at Mount Ida taking mortuary science classes. “I didn’t realize I had a concussion the first time, but I remember feeling awfully sick to my stomach. I went to practice the next day and got another one, but couldn’t remember anything about it.

I knew I couldn’t play this year, but after talking to doctors, my family, and coaches I came to a decision that this was it for me. It wasn’t an easy decision because I love football and have been playing ever since I was a freshman in high school. I’ve had five concussions over the years, though, so I think it was the right thing for me.”

The Murphy family knows the devastating effects of head injuries all too well. F.J.’s sister Kaela was a volleyball, basketball and lacrosse star at Bishop Fenwick who went to St. Joseph’s College in Maine three years ago — but has suffered eight concussions playing sports over the years.

“Kaela was told she couldn’t play any more sports, so she’s gone through the same thing I’m dealing with. The decision was made for her by doctors,” said F.J. Murphy. “At least I had a choice, and coach (J.B.) Wells was a big influence in helping me. My sister has also been there for me and she’s a huge support.”

F.J. met with Endicott president Dr. Richard Wylie to discuss bringing the Impact Test to the college. It is widely used around the country to test for concussions which are sometimes difficult to diagnose properly.

“It’s used to test where your memory is at. Currently we don’t have it at Endicott, so my big project is to see that we get it,” he said.

“I was fortunate to go to St. John’s Prep, where we have resources, and I think it is very important for Endicott student-athletes to also have it available to them. The Sports Legacy Institute at BU provides education for parents, coaches, and athletes to deal with head injuries.

“After getting two in one weekend, I wasn’t able to eat without feeling sick for over a month,” Murphy added. “To this day I still get dizzy at times. Memory retention is also a problem, but things are getting better. Fortunately I was able to go to my classes, and only missed four or five.”

Last semester Murphy earned a 3.65 grade point average, a remarkable feat considering he has no idea how he was able to do in the days following his concussions. He also did extensive physical therapy at Gordon College, which really helped him recover.

“I want to give back to the school; leave my mark in a positive way,” Murphy said of Endicott. “I can’t do it on the field, but I want to bring the Impact Test and raise awareness of head injuries. Right now I’m focusing on academics because speaking long term almost all athletes go into a profession not sports.

“(NFL Player Agent) Sean Stellato (of Peabody) has invited me to set up an information table at his big book signing event in Salem (at the Hawthorne Hotel) this summer to give me a forum for my project. I’ve also talked to Prep coaches (Brian) St. Pierre and (Jameson) Pelkey about working with the offensive and defensive linemen later this summer.”

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Peabody High head softball coach Butch Melanaphy has added two highly qualified assistants: Vin Grifoni is the new assistant coach, and his daughter Michelle Melanaphy will be a volunteer coach.

Michelle Melanaphy is a former two-year captain and star for the Tanners who went on to excel at Salem State. There, she was a four-year starter, two-year captain and two-time MASCAC All-Conference who graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.83 GPA in 2012. She played a big role in the Vikings’ league championships in 2010 and 2012, and is now a registered nurse.

Grifoni has been involved in coaching softball at all levels, from Peabody Youth Softball to AAU with the Mass Wildcats, and is also an ASA umpire. He coached the Salem State women’s club hockey team and Endicott women and was a fast pitch player on the USAF men’s team.

The Tanners will be looking to return to the playoffs this season.

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Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at jmdeplacido@aol.com.