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Keep Maine Student Athletes Safe: High School Concussion Testing

A hit in the head can change everything, just ask Tom Duffy. Tom’s 8 concussions playing football left him with the choice: stop playing or risk death from even the next minor head injury.

Nearly 75% of households in the United States have at least one child playing organized sports and thousands of Maine student-athletes will participate in fall sports this year. Unfortunately, about 3.5 million children require medical treatment for sports-related injuries of varying severity every year with nearly half of the injuries classified as preventable by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One of the most serious injuries can be a concussion.

A concussion is a brain injury caused by blunt force trauma to the head which causes the brain to move inside the skull. Every incident of head trauma has the potential to be a concussion. According to the Maine Concussion Management Initiative (MCMI) 10% of athletes in Maine experience a concussion every year with the majority of the concussions in the fall. Fall sports such as football, soccer, field hockey, and other sports involve players who constantly collide and result in blunt force head trauma.

Concussion symptoms are not always obvious. You don’t need to be knocked unconscious or “have your bell rung” to sustain a concussion. Even a seemingly, minor impact can cause a brain injury. Symptoms of a concussion to watch for can include:

• Headaches or a feeling of pressure in the head • Nausea or vomiting • Dizziness or balance problems • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, groggy • Double or blurry vision • Confusion
• Does not “feel right”

Baseline neurological tests, which measure cognitive ability and reaction time, should be administered by the school before the start of the sports season. The test takes 30 to 45 minutes to complete. In 2010, the MCMI performed 7, 207 baseline test at 55 high schools. Of those tested, 737 student athletes (10.2%) were re-tested following a suspected concussion. The MCMI also trains participating school administrators and medical professionals in concussion management.

Concussions take time to heal. Once an athlete receives a diagnosis of a concussion, the athlete must rest both physically and cognitively until the symptoms resolve. An injured athlete must retake and pass the concussion test and then receive medical clearance before returning to play.

Athletes who return to play too soon risk a greater chance of a second concussion. Concussions can cause cumulative damage and receiving multiple concussions can cause permanent brain damage.

So keep your student athlete safe. Make sure your high schooler receives a baseline concussion test before the season starts. Be aware of concussion symptoms and, if your high school athlete receives a concussion, make sure that your child does not return to play until a health care professional says it is okay.

Don Briggs, Esq.

Copyright 2012: Briggs & Wholey, LLC