A record of 24 concussions have occurred in athletes playing for the school in the 2015-2016 school year, an all-time high in the last five years, according to Athletic Trainer Michael Hodges. New and additional precautions since 2008 have been added to the treatment protocol.
Hodges says that football and soccer are the two sports where he sees the most concussions happen, and he says that head-to head collisions are one of the key signs to take an athlete out of play. While it is state law to pull a player suspected of a concussion, Hodges points out that it is also important to check out the individual player as each concussion differs.
“Concussions are like snowflakes, no two are identical no matter what goes on. So, the only way to put a broad spectrum treatment for an injury that’s so specific to that person is (for coaches) to pull everybody out until they’re evaluated by someone who’s trained,” Hodges said.
Sustaining repeated concussions can result in a disease known as CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. CTE is a progressive disease connected with repeated head traumas. Adding to the severity of CTE is the fact that an individual can have the disease but have it go undiagnosed until after death. Obvious and severe signs of CTE include memory loss, impaired judgement, aggression, and depression.
In soccer, heading the ball is the cause for nearly one-third of reported youth concussions. Additionally, it is 1.5 times more likely for a high school girl to be diagnosed than a high school boy, according to a report done by CNN. Brandi Chastain, a former U.S. National Women’s soccer player, who is most well known for scoring the winning goal to defeat China in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, recently promised to donate her brain to CTE research in hopes that it will assist in research and treatment.
Junior Seau, an NFL Hall of Fame linebacker, is an example of the severe issue of concussions as he suffered from head trauma from playing in the NFL for 20 seasons. Seau took 1,524 hits to the head in 20 years worth of practice and games. Seau battled depression, a likely sign of CTE, and committed suicide two years after retiring. It was confirmed that Seau did in fact suffer from CTE.
To avoid letting athletes go back to play too early, a baseline test is now used to provide proof of when the brain was back to normal functioning. An athlete is required to take the baseline test some time in their high school career. After a concussion, the player will then have to take the test again as the final clearance before s/he can return to play.
Senior Alex Mahoney suffered from a concussion while playing for Roberson’s soccer team 2 weeks ago but did not have to miss school. Mahoney hit her head in a home game against Tuscola, She said she did not suspect she had a concussion because she’s never had one before. Only thinking she had a headache, she continued to play.
“I wasn’t pulled out right away because it was at the end of the game. I really didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney did take the concussion baseline test freshman year and as part of the requirement to come back to play, she had to pass it again.
While concussion and CTE research is fairly new the latest innovation in handling a diagnosed concussion changes its focus.
“Concussion research right now is mostly focused on return to play and returning to learn in the classroom. We don’t put you in a dark room anymore and say ‘don’t do anything, don’t think.’ It’s completely different now,” Hodges said.