By Randy Fisher
If it is thought an athlete may have suffered a head injury, the trainers at both Andover and Andover Central high schools tend to look for similar symptoms. Fortunately, there are guidelines and procedures in place from the National Federation of State High School Associations Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to assist them.
According to the NFHS’ website, “A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that interferes with normal function of the brain. It occurs when the brain is rocked back and forth or twisted inside the skull as a result of a blow to the head or body. What may appear to be only a mild jolt or blow to the head or body can result in a concussion.”
Both Pat Moore, with Andover High School, and Jay Hedger, of Andover Central, first look at the mechanism of the injury itself – how it happened. Hedger follows that with subjective information from the athlete.
“Their description of what happened, and any symptoms they are experiencing at the time – whether it be nauseating, vomiting, anything like that; confusion, balance issues,” Hedger said.
One of the three areas he looks at is an objective measurement of the athlete’s memory.
“Ask questions like do they remember what they had for breakfast this morning, do they remember who they’re playing now, do they remember who they played last week, do they remember the score of the game, do they remember their date of birth,” Hedger said. “Just kind of get an idea if they have some memory issues.”
Having them recite the months of the year or a series of numbers in reverse will test their cognitive abilities, Hedger said. He also administers the Balance Error Scoring System (BESS) that checks three different types of stances to see if their balance is impaired.
When the athlete comes off the field or the court, Moore will observe their personality, which will change dramatically with a concussion.
“It can be emotional from laughing to crying,” he said. “Each kid could have a little different symptom.”
Some of the more common symptoms are being very quiet, sick to their stomach, eyes dilated or changed out, nausea, humming in their ears and seeing stars.
The bottom line is to determine if the athlete may have suffered a concussion. When that happens, KSHSAA protocol is for the athlete to be kept out the rest of the game or practice.
Hedger said if there is any loss of consciousness, even briefly, he assumes there is a neck injury and 911 is contacted. However, loss of consciousness cannot be the overriding factor that a person has suffered a concussion. The NFHS says that less than 10 percent of players actually lose consciousness with a concussion.
Even after a doctor examines and releases an athlete who suffered a concussion, the KSHSAA requires a five-step Progressive Physical Activity Program before a concussed athlete can resume playing. The steps are, in chronological order: light aerobic exercise, moderate aerobic exercise, noncontact training drills in full uniform, full contact practice or training, and full game play.
These steps are important because if the athlete is not fully recovered, concussion symptoms may not show up under normal physical conditions.
“Operating temperatures, blood pressure up, running and breathing and stuff – sometimes you don’t catch the headache again until you do all this,” Moore said.