Originally published August 11th, “Student athletes suffer the stings of concussions while lawmakers fail to help” written by Steve Jansen and Gus Garcia-Roberts (not their first) in the Miami New Times News shows examples of how missing concussions and not handling them correctly (from player to coach to parents to athletic trainers) can be very troubling.
Including in this piece are quotes from Dr. David Hovda, one of the leaders in concussion/brain trauma research from UCLA, as well as other lawmakers and parents.
- The effect of a concussion on kids can be much more devastating than on adults. Doctors say that until a person is in his early to mid-20s, his brain is not fully developed and can’t take the same level of trauma as an adult brain can.
- Postmortem analysis, the only surefire way to measure concussions’ devastating effects, shows that repeated blows to the head might be linked with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and a number of other fatal diseases.
- An athlete who doesn’t exhibit outward signs of a concussion (headaches, dizziness, vomiting, temporary amnesia) can still experience changes in brain activity similar to those in a player who has been clinically diagnosed with a concussion.
- Thus far in 2011, 20 state governments and the District of Columbia have signed concussion legislation that prohibits an athlete from returning to play until cleared by a licensed physician. To date, 28 states (as well as the city of Chicago) have concussion laws in place. This does not include Florida; here, legislators struck down a proposed bill that could have helped protect youth athletes.
- The ImPACT test, widely regarded as the go-to neurological exam to measure concussive blows, doesn’t always accurately gauge a player’s readiness to return to action. And you can cheat on it.
The article is lengthy but worth the read, below are some excerpts of the cases Jansen and Garcia-Roberts examined;
Natasha Helmick goes up for a header during a Dallas soccer match and gets speared in the left temple by an opponent. The 14-year-old, a talented center midfielder playing in the choice Lake Highlands Girls Classic League, crumples to the ground.
She can’t see anything out of her left eye. Her coach asks if she’s OK. Natasha lies and says she’s good to go, and the coach puts her back into the lineup. She plays the remainder of the game, even though one eye sees darkness, while floaters and sparkly objects dance in front of the other.
Game tape shows David holding his head and swaying like a drunk. But there was no way he was going to take himself out of this match, and his coach didn’t either.
It was — though David didn’t understand the medical ramifications at the time — his third concussion in four years. After the game, he felt nauseated and cowed by light, stumbling to his dad’s car and collapsing.
During play, the ball was kicked in the air and “brushed across the front of [Ali’s] face,” Kim says. “It was not a hard hit at all, but right after that, she started stuttering.” Ali saw a doctor, who discovered a number of much more serious problems.
Out of sight of the referees, who signaled play to continue as normal, Matt crawled to the sidelines and lost consciousness. After paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive him, Matt was rushed to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for emergency brain surgery.
In 2008, Ryne Dougherty, a 16-year-old high school linebacker in Essex County, New Jersey, sat out three weeks following a concussion. But after taking an ImPACT test, he was cleared to play. During his first game back, he suffered a brain hemorrhage and slipped into a coma. Ryne died within a week.
But Ryne’s ImPACT results were ominously low, the family has claimed in a lawsuit against the school district. Additionally, according to the test results, Ryne reported feeling “foggy,” but he was still cleared to play.
“Fogginess is the lead predictor of lasting head trauma,” says Beth Baldinger, the attorney representing Ryne’s family in a suit against the district. “[The trainer] ignored the test results in front of her. This case screams ignorance.”