The weekly blog of an athletic trainer covering high school sports, including injury recaps. This is an insight into the daily life/profession of an athletic trainer. All incidents are meant for educational purposes and names/teams may be changed in order to protect identification. That’s A Wrap will post on Tuesday mornings as a recap of the previous week and any upcoming highlights.
This past week was an adventure in the athletic training room and on the sidelines, providing some good stories/information/learning experiences for me to pass along. It began the last time this series was posted; after Tuesday’s practice a player approaches me and informs me his head is bothering him. Naturally I asked him when it started – fully expecting him to tell me just last drill – and he told me “yesterday during the game.” I don’t know if you have seen the clips from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly during their first game, but that is exactly how I felt. He had multiple opportunities during the game, after the game, a phone call overnight, in the middle of the school day, before practice, or during practice to let me know about his issues. Instead he waits until after practice and a full day of school to let me know about his injury.
Wednesday arrived with the injury list continuing to expand, there was actually a coaches meeting to discuss how to avoid further injuries while still getting the necessary work in. The plan was a good one, until the kids actually were on the field, as about 40 minutes in I notice a player grabbing his head and taking a knee. During a one-on-one WR/DB blocking drill he was inadvertently hit in the head, I didn’t even need to do a full evaluation on him, his signs and symptoms were enough to warrant the call to mom.
Thursday is freshman games, typically a level that there are fewer concussions, however that would not be the case in this game. At halftime the head coach of the visiting varsity team asked me to check a player (we will call him “Ed” as I will refer back to him) with a possible concussion, that occurred on Monday. The player was suited up ready to play, but thankfully the coaches used good discretion and did not let him play. As I evaluated “Ed” his memory was a big issue, he did not remember where he was/who he was playing, who he played last week and even commented to me “this might seem weird, but it is to me, I cannot remember my locker combinations since the injury.” All of this was happening in front of his varsity head coach, and when it was time for the balance portion of the eval, “Ed” was less than stellar. Easy decision, especially since it was a visiting team, out until cleared by physician and I talked to mom about the situation. (Come to find out on Friday at varsity game, mom was very upset about how the coaches were accusing her son of being a “wimp” and “soft” for not practicing earlier in the week.)
As I was finishing that I look on the field and see one of our players get crushed in the back (whiplash) then hit his head on the field. He popped right up, but then demonstrated that staying upright and walking in a straight line was difficult at best for him. I asked him two question when I got to him on the sideline, “does your neck hurt” and “how does it feel to look in the lights”. The answers were no, and it makes it worse. He was pulled from the game, his helmet given to mom in the stands along with our pamphlet of information regarding correct management. This injury brought our total to four on the season, none have returned to play at this time.
After our injury I was summoned on the field by the officials to do a “head check” on a player from the other team. I was immediately met by a coach who tried to explain the injury away in a defensive nature. I told him that if it was that simple that after my evaluation he will be back on the field, it will be a few minutes. To which this coach became a little upset and insisted I wasn’t needed, to which I replied that the officials asked me to check him out, and unless I clear him he is out of the game. The coach was less than pleased as he stormed off uttering something under his breath. The kid was very cool about it, was ready for the test and was passing with flying colors in a rapid sequence. It had been about three minutes in chronological time and one minute in game time (BTW I was on their sideline with 2:40 to go in the 3rd), when it was time for the BESS test. As the kid was passing his stances I was getting heckled by their fans (one was his dad I found out). They were making comments like “you can hold him out all game if you want, this is unfair”, “you ain’t no doctor”, “so what if he has a headache”, and my favorite comment “what does he have to do sing the star-spangled banner”. Regardless the comments were both funny and disturbing, I had never been heckled before doing my job, I was kind of honored. The kid was cleared by me at the end of the 3rd quarter, I did my job and the parents and coaches were out of line, period.
It just goes to show you we have a VERY long road ahead of us in trying to break a stigma so ingrained in sports.