In January’s edition of Coach and Athletic Director Editor-in-Chief, Michael Austin wrote the cover story on concussions; titled “What you’re missing when it comes to brain injuries”. A very well researched and written article on concussion issues at the high school level. Austin looked at the changing protocols, safety issues and legal concerns that will be facing the sports of our community schools now and in the future. Here are some excerpts;
This isn’t just a football problem. Media coverage focuses on the gridiron, but any time a player’s head is placed in harm’s way, a brain injury is a potential result. “From what I see, football leads the pack by far but we’re also seeing more girls and boys soccer players sustaining concussions,” says Dr. Michael C. Koester, MD, ATC, who is the director of the Slocum Sports Concussion Program within the Slocum Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Eugene, Ore. “Interestingly this year, and this could just be a statistical blip, but it’s worth noting we are seeing more girls volleyball players as well.”
That comment struck me as in the fall I saw more junior high school volleyball concussion (5) than high school football concussions (4), I have no idea what that means.
In the area of classification, Austin does a good job of trying to put ‘mild’ to rest with concussions;
Dr. Gerard Gioia, the director of the Pediatric Neuropsychology Program at Children’s National Medical Center and the director of the hospital’s Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program, says the medical community has “dropped the grading system” when it comes to concussions. He adds a common misnomer is the
suggestion you must have loss of consciousness to sustain a concussion, which is not true. “You can’t call a concussion
‘mild’ just because someone isn’t knocked out for 10 minutes. Most concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness,” Gioia says.
Regarding the state legislation and protocols;
“The No. 1 goal is to get the student-athlete back to school without symptoms or ramifications before even thinking about a return to the sport,” Fink says. For coaches anxious to have the player return to the field, Fink tells them every athlete is different and to expect an eight-day recovery at the very minimum. He explains this as “eight days from injury to the first non-padded practice,” so there is no confusion about his plan.
There is no way a concussed kid is playing one week later at our school, with our plans in place. The “eight-days” is merely a ploy to inform coaches of the seriousness of the injury. Even with that minimum standard at our school, this means a player will not be eligible to return for 12 days – which is rare at best.
I really applaud Austin for hammering home the need for athletic trainers at schools, he took a good chunk of his article explaining why;
For Fink, who is an ATC in central Illinois and someone who has suffered 11 diagnosed concussions in his life (three of which came while playing high school sports), having an ATC at your school is imperative due to the personal relationships the athletic trainer develops with students. This makes spotting a potential brain injury much easier. “As an athletic trainer, I am armed with various techniques, tools, protocols and education in the area of concussions; however my biggest weapon is knowing the individual,” Fink explains. “I perform balance testing along with standard who/what/when/where questions, delayed recall, numbers, simple math, etc. However, because I work at a high school and see the students daily, I get to know them well and usually identify a concussion in 10 to 15 seconds of just getting to the injured athlete because of general demeanor and clinical presentation.” For Fink, this also takes the pressure off the coach. Fink makes the final decision to remove the athlete from competition. The coach or athletic director does not have to make this call.
In the final portion of the article Austin goes on to explain, with a great example, of the impending and “dark cloud” of lawsuits will have an impact on the sports we enjoy now;
This isn’t to say every school district in the country is at risk for a potential lawsuit when a player suffers a concussion. Parisi and Bradley stress where the coaches at Higginsville went wrong was allowing Frith back on the field. “There is an assumption of risk in contact sports but that assumption goes away after a child is injured the first time,” Bradley says. “After that, it’s up to the people in charge to recognize the situation, remove the player and not allow him or her to return until cleared to play.” “This was a rare event in that the magnitude of the brain injury was so great because of the successive concussions,” says Parisi, who adds that when researching the Frith case they came across dozens of other players who returned to play too soon. “The brain will heal if you take the player out. It may take more than six months, which is something coaches may not want to hear.”
This piece does a great job of underlying the massive issue with concussions – the mismanagement of the injury – from point of concussion to full recovery. Thanks to Michael Austin and Coach and Athletic Director Magazine. You can find the full .pdf of the story HERE. However I really encourage all those involved in high school sports to get a subscription to this magazine. It has great coverage of all things relevant to you and your school.