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Springfield Public Schools works with St. John’s Sports Medicine to provide athletic trainers to be on the sidelines at athletic events. Jim Raynor, executive director of St. John’s Sports Medicine, says they follow the Zurich Guidelines, which advise refraining from sports activities for seven to ten days following disappearance of symptoms.
He says students who are identified as having a concussion are required to see a physician and receive a physician evaluation of clearance before returning to play. Once the athlete is symptom-free for 24 hours, Raynor says they go through a test called a SCAT II or a Sports Concussive Assessment Test…
"We go through thinks like physical signs--'was there a loss of consciousness?' even though a loss of consciousness isn't an indicator of severity of injury, 'are they undergoing balance issues?' Do they have a memory--immediate memory and long-term memory deficits?' Orientation questions, balance examinations and then, once we get that baseline of that assessment--it's a pretty comprehensive assessment that takes about ten to 15 minutes depending--once that's established and once the student athlete is symptom-free, they then do a return to play activity level."
He says the athlete must be symptom-free for at least seven days before returning to play.
According to Raynor, not only are they worried about second impact symdrome, but they’re also concerned about the cognitive loss associated with repetitive trauma that could interfere with a student’s school work.
And concussion doesn’t differentiate between males and females. Raynor says the fastest rising group of concussed athletes comes from women’s soccer and women’s basketball. He says the rates of concussion in female athletes are dramatically increasing each year. And several of those who suffer concussion in sports each year are athletes as young as 12 and 13. Raynor says concussions become even more problematic the younger a student is—that’s where a conservative approach needs to be established…
"The student athletes are not miniature adults--their brains are developing rapidly with each passing day, each passing month, and management of those adolescents must be more conservative. So, we cannot correlate what we see on Sunday afternoons or on Saturday afternoons with full-grown adults on how concussions are managed at that level or at the professional level. As a matter of fact, they need to be managed more diligently the younger they are."
Dr. Shannon Woods says there’s concern repeated concussions can lead to long-term problems…
"There's more research being done, some of which is funded by the NFL, which do show that there are long-term risks for some individuals, especially, with repetitive concussions. And these studies have shown that there is early-onset Alzheimer's-type illness that occurs with successive concussions. There's also been studies that have looked at the brain patterns or the thinking patterns, I guess, of individuals with concussions and without ever having concussions, and there's a difference in brain energy metabolism or how people are thinking, essentially, or utilizing their brain whether they've had a concussion before or after. So, the consequences are still being determined, and there's some direction out there that's pointing, saying that long-term consequences can be pretty severe."
Woods says there really isn’t any way to eliminate the risk for concussion when athletes are putting their all into a game besides making sure any protective gear like helmets is in good working order. He says the most important thing that needs to be done in youth athletics is identifying individuals who are more susceptible to concussion or the effects of concussion and steering them toward sports where concussion is less likely.
For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.