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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Concussions can be a big headache

Thursday, September 30, 2010

When the subject of concussions is brought up in casual conversation, people tend to have a preconceived notion of what it means. Often, people picture some injured person sprawled out and unconscious on the ground. Above that injured individual stands a member of a medical staff waving some sort of sour smelling vial under their nose until they regain consciousness. The medical representative then snaps his fingers a couple of times and asks the hurt individual to tell them how many fingers he is holding up.

Lately, concussions have become a hot button issue; even the federal government is contemplating legislation to regulate playing time after an athlete has suffered from one. "A concussion is a head injury that has a wide range of symptoms, that may or may not result in loss of consciousness," said Athletic Trainer Greg Gilmore with Cox Rehab and Sports Medicine in Monett. "When an athlete is injured and it involves their head, it is my job to access the situation and monitor the symptoms."

There are two different types of concussion symptoms, early and late. The early symptoms of concussions can be as mild as a headache, nausea, negative reaction to bright lights and earaches.

Late symptoms include a person being overly emotional, depressed, irritable, tired, loss of concentration or feeling like they are in a fog. These symptoms can last for months or even years.

"If a player has lost consciousness or demonstrates the early symptoms of a concussion, they are immediately sent to the hospital for a full evaluation," said Gilmore who works with Monett athletes. "If no symptoms are immediately displayed, the trainer tracks and observes the hurt individual to ensure no brain trauma has occurred."

Monett High School is concerned enough about their players' health and saftey that they have contracted with Cox to have a sports medicne trainer like Gilmore on the sidelines.
"Having a certified medical trainer on the sidelines lets our coaches focus on coaching," said Monett Athletic Director Daryl Bradley "Coaches don't have to make an uninformed decision about whether or not an athlete has suffered a concussion. We value Gilmore's opinion. If he says an athlete can't play we don't let him play.

"The size and speed of the kids who play football today has changed drastically over the last 20 years ago. At Monett we take every precaution when dealing with the safety and well being our student athletes," Bradley said "All of our coaches are CPR certified and have been taught the basics of first aid. We adhere to the strict standards of the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) guidelines in all aspects of our program."

While Monett is fortunate to be able to budget for the expense of having a sports medicine trainer on its sidelines, some schools such as Pierce City are not as lucky.

"Fifteen years ago if you came over to the sidelines complaining about your head hurting the coach would tell you to get tough and you just got your bell rung a little," said Pierce City Football Coach Mac Whitehead. "One of my main concerns as a coach is not realizing that one of my players is hurt and then sending them back into the game where the injury could become worse.

"As a coach we have to use our best judgment. MSHSAA has a slogan 'When in doubt, set them out.' We believe in it. MSHSAA does a wonderful job of educating us on the warning signs of a concussion. It is my ultimate responsibility as head coach to have my player's best interest at heart. It doesn't matter if mom and dad think that their son is all right and that he should be playing. If I think a player of mine has suffered a concussion, he is not going to play."

Everyone interviewed for this story believed it was a good idea to have a sports medical trainer on the sideline.

"At the very least, you need someone who is trained in CPR and first aid," Gilmore added. "Several of the basic principles of first aid and treating a person with a concussion are the same. If the coach or the parents have any concerns they should always defer to the athletic trainers advice."

Monett Football Coach Chad Depée says he is grateful to have a trainer on his sidelines.

"I will always rely on what Greg (Gilmore) advises," Depée said. "When I was playing, it was a matter of toughness. If you got hurt, you had to show you were tough and get back out there and play. It's a coach's worst nightmare to see one of your players lying on the ground injured.

"However, when you have a trainer whose judgment you can trust and rely on, it makes your job as coach so much easier," Depée said. "We always want to do what's best in the child's interest."

In order for a player who has suffered from a concussion to return to the playing field they must be symptom free. Trainers use tests, such as non-contact running and exercises to increase the athlete's heart rate, in order to clear them to play.

"Broken bones can heal, cramps can be worked out," Gilmore added. "You only have one brain and once damage occurs, it can be permanent. If you have any doubts about your injury, follow up with a concussion specialist."

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