Time to introduce our newest blogger; Mike Hopper. I will let him describe a little about himself…
I am currently a certified athletic trainer working in a physical therapy clinic and providing outreach coverage to high schools in the Metro-East St. Louis area. I graduated this past December with my bachelor’s degree in athletic training. People ask why I would choose a profession that is relatively low-paying and has the hours that athletic training often does.
For a long time, I would say that it’s just what I love, which is true. I love being around athletes, I love watching sports, and I have taken an interest into the healthcare of these athletes. But it goes back to high school for why I have become so passionate about this profession.
I suffered concussions in high school. Not a single one was ever diagnosed or even evaluated by a health care professional, but knowing what I know now, I am certain I had at least 3 of them, probably more than that. But even 4-5 years ago, we did not know very much about concussions. I “got my bell rung” but that was just part of being a football player. I can remember now two specific incidents where I am certain I had symptoms that went unreported.
The first one was in a football game on a kickoff. I got hit from behind and my facemask actually got stuck in the ground. I got up a bit dizzy and headed for the sideline—the opponent’s. I realized it quickly enough, but I developed a headache later. Again none of it reported. Then my senior year I was a catcher on the baseball team and took a foul tip off the facemask. I remember immediately everything going blurry and that lasted for several seconds, the headaches and some dizziness persisted for several days. The reason I did not say anything when it first happened was I wasn’t going to let an injury stop me being the catcher, and so I played “tough.” Also I did not report symptoms to anyone because I didn’t feel like I could tell my coach, and the athletic trainer was not at our high school very often for me to tell him. Like any other teenager, I hid things from my parents as well. I realize now how big of a mistake I made, especially with the last one. I recall taking another foul tip-off the facemask at some point during the season, but I don’t remember very much about it, it’s scary to think now what could have happened then.
These experiences helped lead me into athletic training. I do not want student-athletes to be afraid to tell their coach about a head injury. I want every secondary school to have a healthcare professional available who has the knowledge to deal with the unique requirements of a high school athlete. That professional is the Certified Athletic Trainer. I want parents and young athletes to understand the effects of a concussion. I want coaches to recognize that “getting your bell rung” is not something to laugh about and blow off.
America has a long way to go with regards to concussions. It’s not a rite of passage nor is it not being “tough” when you cannot play through the symptoms. Doing a simple search on the internet can result in hundreds of articles about athletes who have died due to concussions. This is not a new phenomenon; concussions have been around since the beginning of time—we are only now starting to truly understand and take action.
Parents, coaches, athletes: GET HELP. Concussions are not something to joke about, and they should not be ignored. Learn from mistakes made in the past and work to change the future. It is now time we took a united stand on head injuries. Remember Certified Athletic Trainers and physicians are not here to prohibit sports activities. We want to help because there is life after high school sports.