Concussion awareness increases at MHS
By Julia Karcewski
Round Table editor
It’s a Tuesday night under the lights at Middletown High School’s stadium, and the girls varsity soccer team is in a match-up against Walkersville. It’s a scrimmage before the real season starts, but because it’s Walkersville, the Knights biggest rival, the intensity is as high as during a regular-season game. Rachel Kessler, a senior and mid-fielder on the MHS soccer team, leaps in the air to head the ball; however, an opponent on Walkersville has the same plan, and they end up bonking heads. Kessler collapses to the ground, feeling dizzy and confused. Coaches carry her off the field, and she sits on the bench while the coaches examine her. It soon becomes apparent: Kessler has a concussion.
Kessler said that as she sat on the bench, she grew dizzier and her headache worsened. She was told that her eyes were dilated, but she couldn’t process the significance of that news because she was too confused, another symptom of the concussion.
Cases like Kessler’s have opened researchers’ eyes about the effects of concussions in active people, particularly athletes. Recent studies have shown just how damaging the impact that causes concussions can be.
“A concussion is a physiological injury. We understand when a force is applied to the brain, the brain moves quickly; it disrupts neural function,” said Jeffrey Kutcher, chair in the Sports Neurology Section of the American Academy of Neurology, during a NPR conference on concussions. “There’s no swelling, there’s no bleeding, there’s no cell death. But there is a disruption of neural function,”
Concussions can have long-term effects if not dealt with properly, which could lead to cognitive delays, brain damage, or even death.
The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, died in a traffic accident last year, but after an autopsy researchers found that he also had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTP), which is a form of brain damage caused by multiple hits to the head. According to an article on ESPN.com, after exploring Henry’s case, researchers found CTE in the brains of over 50 deceased former athletes, including more than a dozen NFL and college football players.
Liam Traube, a junior at MHS has had five concussions in his life, and has experienced tragic symptoms, such as vomiting and being temporarily paralyzed on one side. Due to the multiple occurrences, Traube is not allowed to participate in contact activities or sports.
“The rules about concussions should be a lot more strict because you can put yourself at more of a risk to get another concussion if your not fully healed and are participating in contact activities,” said Traube.
Joey Meighan, a junior running back/ line backer on the MHS football team, suffered from a severe concussion earlier this season.
“Apparently I got hit in mid-air by a teammate at practice, and I immediately fell down. I don’t remember anything from the incident except I vaguely recall standing up,” he said.
Meighan immediately went to the hospital and was told to sit out until a week after the headaches stopped.
For five weeks Meighan suffered migraines. He now has a brand new helmet especially made for preventing concussions. The helmet absorbs the force of violent helmet to helmet collisions.
In a Cleveland clinic, doctors are equipping an “intelligent mouth guard” that uses tiny sensors and Bluetooth technology to measure the intensity of a hit, and the data can be sent to a computer to assist a doctor in verifying if the player has a concussion or not. Doctors say the mouth guard could also help determine if there needs to be rule changes in sports.
More precautions are being taken in sports because it is possible to not feel any symptoms of a concussion, yet still receive brain damage from the impact. Middletown has been proactive in dealing with the issue of concussions in athletes.
Kevin Lynott, MHS varsity football coach, says that the number of concussions has not increased in recent years, but there has been an increased awareness. Because of this, all coaches take class required by the National High School association, and are certified in detecting and treating a concussion.
“If we suspect any signs – even just one sign – the player will sit out until we receive a doctor’s clearance,” said Lynott.
“It’s so hard to prevent concussions, especially in a contact sport like football,” said Ben Lewis, a junior and wide receiver on the MHS varsity football team, “It’s just natural to have a head-on collision, or have some form of contact to your helmet during a play.”
To help avoid these head-on collisions, Lynott says, education is the key.
“We (coaches) try to teach fundamentals that don’t involve head-on plays,” said Lynott. “We enforce other tactics that ensure a successful run, while keeping their head out of the play.”
After Kessler was hit hard, she immediately went to the hospital following the scrimmage, and was diagnosed with a concussion. Kessler sat out for two weeks and still wears a headband during games in order to prevent a second concussion,
Kessler says even though it’s a bummer having to sit out and watch her team play rather than being out with them, new regulations will “make sports safer, because concussions are real serious,”