For any athlete, when they get hurt it instantly becomes a struggle between the head and the heart. One may ask, do I listen to my brain that is telling me to stop playing, or my heart who wants to remain in the game.
The topic of concussions is in the spotlight on football fields across the nation, as well as in athletic training rooms.
“Concussions have always been an injury that goes unreported by our athletes,” said Head Athletic Trainer for Neuqua Valley High School, Mark Florence.
Neuqua athletics implemented a standard in their training room six years ago.
“We use Impact here which is computer software for concussion management,” said Florence.
After suffering a head injury, athletes answer a series of questions on a memory test. Then that test is compared to their answers from the same test given before the season.
This tool helps trainers to identify any lapse in memory in the athlete’s brain.
“It’s a way for us to get our athletes back to playing and know what is going on in their brain,” said Florence.
One Naperville North High School alum, Steve Hlavac sustained a concussion while playing football for the Huskies his junior year.
“Someone came out from the other team, and he and I just collided head to head,” said Hlavac. “I didn’t know where I was and I got extremely dizzy.”
Hlavac says that his memory was pretty hazy after that and he just remembers telling the trainers he was fine and to let him play.
Hlavac didn’t tell anyone he had a concussion, but he said that his teammates knew.
“I just didn’t think anything of it I guess,” said Hlavac. “Players just go through that. You know it’s just part of the game.”
That part of the game can be a deadly one. Head Brain Injury Coordinator for Marianjoy Hospital Dr. Patrick Walsh, says that 40% of high school athletes who receive a hard hit to the head may not show symptoms of a concussion right away, but do in fact have one.
“We know that blows to the head, or repetitive blows even if they don’t, result in loss of consciouness can result in damage to the brain.” said Walsh.
According to Dr.Walsh, those athletes who do continue to play in the game with a concussion, which can be a risky decision to make.
“Second impact syndrome is when an athlete has their first concussion, and then returns to play before their symptoms have cleared,” said Walsh. “What that leads to is brain swelling if they get a second concussion, and that can lead to death.”
Even though any sport is dangerous and it might not be safe, for some athletes there is only one thought that’s going on in the brain…to play.
“I just wanted to be out there and it is probably my biggest passion,” said Hlavac. “Not being able to do that takes a lot out of you.”
The Illinois High School Association updated their rules this year and called for all student athletes who suffer head injuries to be removed from the game immediately and not be allowed to play until they are cleared by a doctor.
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