Concussions pose serious threat to student-athletes

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Strake 9-7-13 Hawkins (16)By Matt O’Connor

Eagle Staff

Blurred vision, headaches and a loss of consciousness – all symptoms of one of the most feared injuries in sports: the concussion.

It is no secret, concussions are everywhere you look in the news. Whether it be the NFL embroiled in a lawsuit against former players or stiffer, more severe penalties surrounding helmet-to-helmet contact, the once insignificant injury is now a serious issue.

Recently, college programs have come under fire due to the way in which they handle the concussion rehabilitation and player safety.

Reports have surfaced of players purposely failing to tell the trainer or a coach of any concussion-like symptoms due to the fear of getting benched and athletic trainers purposely mis-diagnosing the injury to allow the players to get back onto the field quicker.

In fact, high school football is consistently shown in studies to be the sport with the greatest proportion of concussions (47.1% to 56.8%) and the highest concussion rate (6.4 to 7.6 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures) according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Another startling fact: there are approximately 67,000 diagnosed concussions in high school football every year, according to a report published by Dr. SP Broglio.

However, the number is dropping, according to St. Thomas Athletic Trainer Chris Valdez.

“We have seen a decrease in concussions within the last five years. Four and five years ago we saw many concussions on the sub-varsity levels,” Valdez said. “Once we instituted strength training for the neck and the entire body, those numbers have dropped dramatically within the last three years.”

Player safety should be the number one priority of every team, and according to senior John Gentempo, who has sustained multiple concussions, the St. Thomas training staff could not have handled the concussion any better.

“[Valdez] handled rehab very well. He was conservative with me, not rushing me and letting me work at my comfortable pace,” Gentempo said. “I think my most recent concussion was treated appropriately; I don’t how it could have been better.”

Also, according to Gentempo, the concussion had effects off the field as well.

“During my week of recovery, schoolwork was bothersome and I struggled. My thought process was much slower than normal, I had a sort of mental-fogginess,” Gentempo said. “Taking tests were more difficult than usual. I was sensitive to light and sound to the point where I wore sunglasses to some of my classes.”

Additionally, the coaches let him take his time when it came down to rehabilitation and sitting out; he returned only after being cleared by a third-party neurologist.

Overall, Valdez is extremely pleased with the program, but would only change one thing if given the opportunity.

“The only thing about this policy that I don’t like is that people are allowed to go to any doctor to be cleared,” Valdez said. “I have experienced ER physicians releasing people that clearly have signs of a concussion. I think that in order for a doctor to release someone after a concussion they should have more training than me. If I can recognize the person is still having symptoms, they should too. That isn’t always the case and it scares me.”

Gentempo also recognizes the dangers of concussions and stresses that they should not be taken lightly.

“Head injuries are not something you can just tape up continue playing with, you really need to take the proper time to recover and take all the steps to prevent it from happening again,” Gentempo said.

Luckily, steps have been taken to help further the study of brain injuries. Just recently, the NFL made a $10 million grant to aid in the study of brain injuries and the link to Alzheimer’s and other degenerative mental illnesses.

If you think you have sustained a concussion, go and talk to either the trainers or a doctor. It is better to get it treated now and sit out than to take repeated blows and put yourself at risk.

Do not become another statistic; become more aware.

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