Friday Night Lights Week 9

After a one week hiatus, it’s back – my personal experience and feelings on concussions.

It’s the last week for football at the high school I cover, as our team will not have enough wins to qualify for the playoffs here in Illinois.  Two games remain (varsity tonight, JV Monday) and I am not ready for it to end.  I have had one of the most fun and fulfilling years on the gridiron both personally and from an athletic trainer’s stand point.

Recapping the past few weeks, we have had four concussions since I last wrote, two in football and two volleyball players.  All of them were different presentations and circumstances, one of which had me scared out of my wits.

The first of the four was last Thursday as a player was tackled late in the second and came off the field complaining of wrist and hand pain.  The significance of this player is that he was the best on the field and the best player the coaches had at that game.  He came off and we took a look at his wrist/hand, slapped on some tape and had him return, which he did.  But after halftime, the coaches reported to us that this player was “not like himself” during the break, and seemed like he was not paying attention.  They thought he may have a head injury, which was news to us, as we only knew of his hand/wrist injury.  As we walked over to the player he has the “gaze,” as though he is looking straight through you, and grabbing his head.  My student performed the standard tests, Rhomberg, Neurocognitive challenges, and he is obviously struggling.  After we determine that he does in fact reek of concussion, we quizzed him on how he got hurt, and he has no clue.  We talked about the hit that caused his wrist/hand to hurt, and he said he did not remember his head getting hit.  All of his memory was there, but we could not for the life of anyone on the sideline, including his father, figure out where his head was impacted.  The conclusion we finally decided on was that he did not sustain a “monumental” blow, but rather an accumulation of the hits he was taking in the first half.  But the extreme highlight of this particular concussion was the awareness of the coaches.  They identified something was wrong by the way he was acting, an action by the coaches that I believe would not have happened two years ago.  There was no concern on their part that this was the “star” player of the game, or that without him they may struggle.  They made us aware of his symptoms and had us handle it.  That is a HUGE stride in the right direction.

Our middle two concussions were volleyball players, one on the court, one, well…not.  Both of these girls are still out and will not return for the remainder of the season, most likely due to the fact that I sensed some minimalization from parents, possibly due to the stigma of a girls sport.  The first simply hit her head on the court and didn’t report the issue until two days later when the headache would not subside.  The other happened on the team bus, coming back from an away game.  It was not horsing around or someone throwing something that hit her head, it was plain dumb luck that she sustained a concussion.  She was reading and studying on the way back with her head down, when the driver slammed the brakes to avoid wildlife on the road.  Her head drilled the back of the seat.  It was not reported right away, but one of the other players told the coach that she hit her head.  And again in GREAT coaching, the coach reported her to me the next day.  Instead of the coach thinking “no big deal”, she figured that the stop was quick enough and that the player did not seem “right” the next day, and it was worth checking out, which it was, as she failed the SCAT2.

What an amazing feeling to know that the coaching staff is now aware enough to make correct decisions without being clouded by outdated thinking.  I truly hope all schools will see the results of constant education in concussions very soon.

I will examine the last and most difficult concussion the past week in a later post.

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