A view from my side.
Concussions are the latest thing in the news regarding athletics. The NFL is seriously studying the long-term effects of multiple hits to the head that are such a part of every game. Every youth sport organization across the country has been involved in concussion education for coaches, trainers, parents and players. It is a serious injury that can have devastating effects. It doesn’t happen often to runners, the activity I currently participate in, but it happens more often than people think in soccer, the sport I coach.
In yesterday’s match, one of our players went up for a header. Two players for the other team also challenged for the ball. Our player was sandwiched in between. What happened next was scary to watch. One of our opponent’s player’s head hit our player directly on his eye socket, throwing his head backward. A split second later, the other opponent’s head collided with the back of our player’s head, throwing his head forward, this time into the shoulder of the first player. Our player went down like a rock, slumped on the ground motionless.
It took several minutes to get him up. He had no idea where he was, he had no idea what day it was or what activity he was involved in. The trainer spent several minutes monitoring him, going through her checklist before telling me he needed to go to the hospital. We transported him, one of our coaches went with him and I met him up there after the match finished. He had all of the classic symptoms. Headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, balance, sensitivity to light…it’s on the chart above.
The CT Scan was clear, a good sign. Over the time he had spent in the ER, several hours by now, the memory issues had gone away. He was able to remember everything you’d expect except the actual hit that caused the injury. His sensitivity to light was abating, the nausea was getting better, though he was still a bit queasy. He could walk without assistance, though he moved pretty slowly. The doctor gave him a script for some pain meds and an anti nausea medication. The prognosis was great and his directions were to stay out of class and off the athletic field for at least 5 days.
He will have a follow-up appointment with a sport’s physician on Monday who will re-evaluate him and probably let him back to class a few days earlier, but may well extend the off the field order for a few days. And I’m perfectly fine with that. Nothing a high school student does athletically is worth the risk of a second concussion so close to the first. These are serious injuries that require serious attention. We will take our cues from the player and the doctor and act accordingly.
When I was younger, the phrase “oh he’ll be alright, he just had his bell rung” was heard around fields all the time. Usually, the coach would come to the player a few minutes later asking if he was ok and ready to go back into the game. What we know now that we didn’t really know then is that those “bell ringers” are more often than not concussions. I remember going down once in a match, landing on my head as a result of a violent collision and having to be carried off the field. They used smelling salts to get my attention. I sat out the remainder of that half and subbed back in later in the second half. As the coach told me, I had “shaken off the cobwebs and was ready to go.” No trip to the hospital, no visit to the doctor, no trainer checking on me after the match. Just a pat on the back for being tough and a handful of aspirin after the match ended.
Fortunately, we now recognize these injuries for what they are. Every team’s coaching staff has been educated on the signs, symptoms and seriousness of a concussion. Players are not to be returned to the field if there is even a suspicion of a concussion injury and all suspicions are to be reported to trainers and parents. Players are now evaluated and monitored to ensure they have the necessary time to recover and that they don’t end up with a second injury while still healing from the first. Now, when a player says, ‘ow…my head”, everyone listens.