Local High School Athletes Learn What it Means to Deal with a Concussion
This article is written by Steve Krah over at The Elkhart Truth
Jade Iavagnilio and Hunter Sites both suffered blows to the head.
The Concord High School athletes spent time out of the lineup and learned for the first time what it means to have a concussion.
Iavagnilio took an elbow to the head in the first game of the 2013-14 girls basketball season and missed about two months.
In his first high school boys swimming season this winter, Sites’ noggin met the end of the pool while practicing the backstroke. He was out for almost a month and missed more than a week of school.
Neither was allowed to take tests or write essays while recuperating from the brain trauma. Before being released by a physician to Concord certified athletic trainer Jim Read, Iavagnilio and Sites were required to bring their concussion baseline testing levels back to a normal range.
Iavagnilio took the test about five times before being released. She had trouble remembering certain words and shapes and was slow to recognize certain colors in the online testing.
“I couldn’t think,” says Iavagnilio, now a senior and a year removed from the concussion. “My mind wasn’t going fast enough.”
Sites recalls the day his concussion happened.
“I didn’t realize my surroundings and I just kept going and ran into the wall,” says Sites. “I felt dizzy and sat out for the rest of practice.”
While recovering, both were advised by medical professionals to cut back or cut out their screen time.
“They said to take a break from using the phone or watching TV,” says Iavagnilio. “They just wanted us to rest our eyes. It was hard, but when I stopped using mine, my headache would go away. It’s just rest and time.”
Sites said his mother took away the temptation by taking his phone for two days.
“It wasn’t so bad because I just wanted to lay there and rest,” he said.
Brain trauma is serious business. That’s why concussions in sports are such a hot topic.
Gone is the old school idea of shaking it off after an athlete has her “bell rung.” Like any other injured body part — and probably even more so — the brain needs time to heal.
“Especially today, with all the gaming and concentrating on something fast-moving,” says Carl Landis, athletic trainer at Jimtown. “The brain is always working.”
High school athletic trainers are often the first to diagnose concussion symptoms. Landis notes that not every head injury is a concussion. The most common symptoms of a concussion are lingering headache, balance or vision disturbance, dizziness and memory loss.
“Concussions don’t always happen from people getting hit in the head,” says Concord athletic trainer Read. “It’s about the brain moving around (inside the skull). Anytime we have suspicion of concussion, we send them to a physician.”
That is the recommendation of the IHSAA, which adopts rules set by the National Association of State High School Associations.
In its guidelines for concussion management, the Indiana High School Athletic Association states that “any athlete suspected of having a concussion should be evaluated by an appropriate health care professional that day. Any athlete with a concussion should be medically cleared by an appropriate healthcare professional prior to resuming participation in any practice or competition.”
The IHSAA also calls for a student-athlete to immediately have the existence of a concussion or a head injury confirmed by the school’s medical person who has training in the evaluation and management of concussions and head injuries. They can be an Indiana athletic trainer or an Indiana medical doctor or doctor of osteopathic medicine.
A student-athlete suspected of having sustained a concussion or head injury should immediately be removed from a practice or contest, evaluated by an appropriate health care professional, follow return-to-play protocol, and not return to practice or play until the health care professional has cleared him in writing.
Elkhart Memorial trainer Amy Schultz follows a progression once a doctor clears an athlete.
Provided there are no concussion symptoms, Schultz said a typical return-to-play protocol would be a 10-minute jog on the first day, light weightlifting on the second, non-contact practice on the third and then, perhaps, a return to full-contact practice on the fourth or fifth day. If symptoms return, the student may be asked to return to the previous day’s activity.
While concussions can happen in all sports, collision sports like football, soccer, wrestling and, to some extent, basketball, tend to put athletes at more risk. That’s why most trainers are present at those games and practices.
At NorthWood, athletic trainer Paul Widner reports all concussions to athletic director Norm Sellers.