As an athletic trainer there are many difficult situations that arise on the job. Broken bones, overzealous parents, concussions, weather and a myriad of other things get to you. However, there is nothing more troubling and depressing than what I just had to do.
Back story is a female basketball player who has sustained multiple concussions over her high school years in various sports/activities. Each one was handled to the best of our ability and under the concussion policy at this school, even had great conversations with the MD on the case.
After her last concussion, last December, we discussed that because of the number (then at 4) for her the resolution would be longer and possibly met with more difficulties. We also discussed that if all her care takers; parents, coaches andmyself feel she fully recovered that we would allow her to pick one sport for the following year and play. Play with a couple of stipulations; play hard and be honest with me.
She recovered around February and spent the next 7 months slowly getting back into playing shape with few setbacks. When October rolled around she was pumped to begin conditioning and 100% effort in all activities to show she was ready to play once again.
As practice began in early November all was well, things were going great and no symptoms presented themselves, the daily check-in’s with me were becoming boring and redundant; “Everything fine, school was good, practice was good, I got good sleep,” she would tell me. Reports from the coach and my witnessing of practice told us that she was improving and very confident. She was one of the most hard-nosed players on the court diving for balls and playing the sport she loved.
Then it happened, in a game on Monday night while diving for a ball she fell awkwardly and a player landed on her head forcing it off the floor. The bummer was the coach had sub for her at the bench for the sole purpose to get her out of the game for protection. As I arrived to her on the floor she was crying, not because it was hurting (reported headache and blurry vision), but because she KNEW.
A quick evaluation confirmed what was seen, she had a concussion; balance was off, vision was off, headache was getting worse. She was accompanied home, given instructions to stay out of school with the slim hopes that this incident would possibly be transient. That did not come to fruition, the headache was worse, and she slept very long and did not feel rested. She KNEW.
She attempted school today feeling better but by lunch it was too much, the symptoms were worsening and mom came and got her. She KNEW.
Mom and her arrived to my office about 30 minutes ago to go through the formal process of the worst part of my job. They both knew, as I began I could sense no resistance, no denial, no bargaining (like the times before). I looked into her teary eyes as I told her what she KNEW, but did not want to hear; “It is of my professional opinion and for your safety going forward you should retire from contact sports.”
There was a simple response from her; “I know.”