The Winter Wednesdays

Courtesy of Airman 1st Class Kerelin Molina

OK, it’s not winter yet, and not a “catchy” title, but with football over I thought I would amuse the followers of The Concussion Blog with the continuation of real stories.  Both on the concussion front and in athletic training.

Time to roll out the balls & mats

With the end of fall sports… Oops…The transition to the winter sports (as our volleyball team is in the Sweet 16 of the state series, sorry gals).  It is time to get ready for some gym madness, either on the court or in the circle.  Basketball practice has begun and wrestling is about to get underway, so it’s time to change gears.

People tend to think that athletic trainers and concussions go into “hibernation” just like the bears of North America, but they could not be further from the truth.  Sure, at the professional level you see both occurring year round, but at the high school level there is a stigma attached to the winter, non-bladed, sports about the incidence of concussions and need for an athletic trainer.  The traditional sports of basketball and wrestling are CONTACT sports, and injuries, including those to the head, occur all the time.

This week we are pre-testing our athletes with the ImPACT neurocognitive system to get baseline results in the unfortunate case of a concussion.  The school where I work is pretty small, so most of the kids that play in the winter have played a sport in the fall and have been tested prior.  However, with incoming freshman and those that chose not to play in the fall, the tests are mandated at our school.

My head hurts

I always get a kick out of those taking this exam for the first time.  After some serious rules are laid down about taking it seriously and letting them know they cannot fail the test, I always have one or two kids who need help understanding where to put their name on the computer screen.

Upon getting to the task of putting in information about any current symptoms, the athletes learn some of the common signs and symptoms of a concussion.  “So you mean that if I am in a ‘fog’ after hitting my head I might have a concussion?”  “What does it mean by trouble concentrating?”  “What if tests give me headaches?”  And so begins the early stages of educating the athlete about concussions.

After some initial giggling and “smart” comments on the words flashing before them, they get to business and collectively concentrate on doing the best that they can.  At times kids stare so hard at the screen I feel as though they are trying to break glass with some sort of ESP.  As the test goes on, the tasks seemingly get more difficult and the comments turn from “smart” to concerning, for example – “It wants me to do what… NO WAY?!”

Near the end of the testing procedure, it asks to recall information from the beginning of the test, about 25 minutes prior, and the kids have become beleaguered, “YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS!”  “I don’t even know what I have for homework, how am I supposed to remember that?”

Everyone looks exhausted and relieved that it is over, but wants to know if they passed (I told you they have attention span issues).  Usually about a minute later, they start complaining, “I didn’t have a headache before, but now I do.”  “If I get a concussion, I don’t even want to try that test.”  “My head hurts, do I have a concussion?”

Worthwhile effort

Even after all the whining and complaining, most realize how this is going to help me and the doctors determine how recovery is going if they were to be concussed.  It also creates a talking point for the families, thus creating inquisition and another opportunity to educate the support system of the athlete.

Parents, teachers, coaches and kids have come to accept the policy of our school and feel as though we have their best interest in mind when it comes to head injuries.

Now if I could just get Mom to trust me on that ankle sprain that has a kid on crutches for no reason we might be getting somewhere.

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