Concussions pose threat to athletes

The DHS athletic trainer’s room, nestled in the northwest side of campus, is where most blue devil athletes go when they first sustain a concussion.
The DHS athletic trainer’s room, nestled in the northwest side of campus, is where most blue devil athletes go when they first sustain a concussion.

By Hanah Wyman, Staff–

Maddy McGregor, a student at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, has gotten five concussions from playing lacrosse and water polo, as and as a result is out of contact sports for the foreseeable future.

“The number of times someone has said, ‘Wait, why can’t you concentrate? I thought you just had a concussion,’ is ridiculous,” McGregor said.

Even without permanent brain damage, McGregor still has some issues. She missed a full semester and only completed two of the classes she was taking. As as a result, she had to redo her sophomore year.

“I remember reading a packet over and over again, getting a worse and worse headache, and getting more panicked and frustrated, because I didn’t understand what I was reading,” McGregor said.

Davis High nurse Rhonda Youtsey can attest to the symptoms McGregor demonstrated.

“With concussions comes headaches, dizziness and lightheadedness. It’s important for student athletes to wear the proper protection for their sport,” Youtsey said.

Concussions are a serious injury among athletes, and in some cases can even lead to death.

“If you return to play too early it can worsen your symptoms. For example, if the headache associated with concussion is better at rest and you start playing again too early, the headache may return,” pediatrician Kate Land said.

“In the worse case scenario, you risk the second concussion syndrome–a rare but devastating brain injury that can lead to death.

Many schools across the country have implemented an ImPACT test, or a similar baseline test for concussions.

“The ImPACT test is absolutely definitely beneficial,” Youtsey said, adding that Athletic Director Jeff Lorenson wants to bring back the ImPACT test as a requirement for all student athletes.

The ImPACT concussion test (which stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is used across the country and is the “most scientifically validated computerized concussion evaluation system,” according to ImPACT’s website.

The test requires the athlete to go through a series of neurocognitive tests and input background information about his or her concussion. These tests include reaction time, response variability and attention span, among others.

“This year [Castilleja School] is requiring a baseline test for all students, not just athletes, as science now has a better understanding of what a concussion is,” McGregor said.

DHS sophomore Tess McDaniel, who sustained a concussion from lacrosse, believes that “teams should have more consistency wearing the correct gear.” Even with her mild concussion, McDaniel had a modified schedule for three weeks, as well as headaches during that time.

“I think that the ImPACT test is important because if there is an incident, you have something to compare it against,” Tess’s mother Lisa McDaniel said.

“I don’t know what the school does to prevent concussions […] for my daughter, the follow up steps were not spelled out and we had to figure it out on our own.”

“The ImPACT test can be very useful as a part of the evaluation after a concussion. Sometimes the physical symptoms can get better before the athletes cognitive abilities are back to baseline, which can be picked up by the ImPACT test, but is hard to discern otherwise,” Land said.

Many students don’t realize that their symptoms are those of a concussion until they continue to play and it gets worse.

“There should definitely be more awareness around concussion symptoms. There’s this notion that concussions are minor injuries that only give you headaches for a few days. The reality is that even a minor concussion has extremely bad repercussions,” McGregor said.

“The best thing you can do after a concussion is rest,” Youtsey said.

When an athlete gets a concussion there are stages of schoolwork limitations they go through as their condition improves. The stages begin with no school, sports or activity at all, moves on to half days and limited homework and works up to full days with slightly modified homework.

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