A highly discussed topic, concussions are not taken nearly as lightly as they were just a couple years ago. It seems like it’s been all over the news lately. In football stories ranging from the NFL to the high school level there has been a push to more accurately portray the long-term effects of concussions on athletes and the risks they could sustain while playing full contact sports.
At Pacific University concussions are also taken seriously for the student athletes who might sustain one during a practice or game.
“It’s one of the biggest issues in sports right now,” said Head Athletic Trainer Linda McIntosh. “When I started this job 30 years ago, the attitude was if you get a head injury and recover from it, everything will be fine. Now we have seen a movement away from that.”
For McIntosh, the term concussion is one that she hopes to transition away from and replace with traumatic brain injury.
“People associate certain connotations with the word concussion. It’s misunderstood in two ways. One, people don’t think they have one unless they’re knocked unconscious. The other part of that is athletes think: “yeah I got one, it’s not a big deal,” said McIntosh.
She believes there is a shift in the athletic training field in discussing concussions and changing the terminology. There have also been several recent studies on the subject of concussions.
“I for one am glad we’re looking into this. It has become an issue and people are now taking it seriously and becoming more educated about it.”
McIntosh said that she remembers reading about a study where the autopsy of a young athlete that had suffered traumatic brain injury revealed that their brain looked similar to that of a much older person due to the traumatic brain injury it sustained.
McIntosh and her staff do everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen to the athletes at Pacific.
The soccer, football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball, lacrosse and pole-vaulting team all take the concussion baseline test over the computer to ensure they don’t start the season having a concussion. The test can also be referred to throughout the season if an athlete gets a traumatic brain injury and is just one aspect in determining if the athlete is fit to play.
In the event that an athlete sustains an injury the trainer on site immediately evaluates them to assess whether or not the athlete needs to immediately see a doctor.
If they seem okay, the trainers continue to monitor the athlete every day and put them through an evaluation which goes over their memory, balance, coordination, eye reaction and whether or not they are experiencing nausea.
With football new to Pacific this season McIntosh says that they have seen more concussions coming into the training facility. They receive the same training and are also carefully monitored before being able to play. Along with this sport she said that soccer, wrestling and lacrosse see higher amounts of concussions due to the physical contact of the sports.
The concussion management protocol the Pacific athletic trainers follow is based on the National Consensus Statement of Concussions and follows protocol from the 3rd International Conference of Concussions that was held in Zurich, Switzerland in 2008.