Imagine being hit in the head with another person’s head during a basketball game so hard that you receive a concussion. You’re removed from academics for almost a month and a half and removed from playing basketball for the rest of the season.
That was me. During a basketball game against Douglas Southall Freeman high school last year, I was dribbling quickly towards the basket when a girl’s head slammed into mine, and her teeth accidentally pierced my head, leaving an enormous bump. At first I was dizzy, but I continued to play. That was my first mistake, but my second concussion.
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that changes the way the brain functions. The symptoms are usually temporary but can include headaches, memory problems, sensitivity to light and noise, feeling dizzy or foggy, as well as balance and coordination difficulties.
Jason Engle, one of Collegiate’s athletic trainers, stated that Collegiate has had more student-athlete concussions this past fall than in any other season in the past few years. According to Engle, this dramatic increase is due to over-aggressiveness on the court or field, as well as athletes not communicating that they are having symptoms because they do not want to miss out on playing.
Ellie Fleming (‘16) says, “When I hear the word ‘concussion,’ I think of missing weeks and weeks of a sport you really enjoy playing and getting so far behind on academics that you’re thinking about catching up rather than getting healthy.”
If you suffer a concussion, even if it appears to be mild, it is important that you do not return to play the same day. You should immediately be evaluated by a certified athletic trainer, doctor, or a coach that is trained to recognize the symptoms of concussion.
The most important thing to do when receiving a concussion is to take time and rest. The brain needs time to properly heal, so rest is extremely important. It is imperative that you do not resume play the next day. If you return to playing too soon, there is a greater chance of receiving a second concussion. Back-to-back or repeat concussions can cause cumulative effects on the brain. Bo Little (‘17) experienced repeat concussions during his freshman year and says, “The only thing you can do after receiving a concussion is take time. I have had lots of experience with concussions, and they are horrible because all you can do to recover is rest. But rest is really important regarding a healthy recovery.”
The feeling of fear that concussions bring to the public has become more evident in the media recently due to the new United States Soccer Federation guidelines. These new guidelines set strict limits and prohibit youth soccer players from heading the ball depending on how old they are. Children that are ten years old or younger are not allowed to head the ball at all, and children that are around 12 years old are only permitted to head the ball in practices, not in games. The awareness of head injuries is increasing after numerous local and international cases, including during the 2014 Men’s World Cup. This increased awareness led to the new rules involving heading for younger children.
Although concussions are possible in all sports, they are most likely to occur in football. Football makes up 47 percent of sport-related concussions in high school athletes. Kevin Cross (‘17) received a football-related concussion last fall and says, “To prevent further concussions in football, we need to make sure that the proper form of tackling is instilled into kids at a young age, because a lot of the time concussions occur when someone is leading with their head.”
When the head’s motion stops suddenly, the head is knocked forward, causing the brain to bang against the skull. This forward jolt of the brain causes it to bruise. After the brain hits the front part of the skull, it changes direction and rebounds off the skull, where it then gets pressed against the back of the head. This repeated back-and-forth movement of being bounced around the inner parts of a head can create tissue swelling within the brain, which causes pressure inside the skull. This pressure and swelling are the aspects that determine the severity of a concussion. Regardless of sport, league, or region, the choice to play sports with enhanced risk of brain injury is a personal choice that all athletes make, but they must take precaution when playing said sport.