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Head Games

Concussions occur at all levels of sport, but how dangerous can they be?

All+Dallastown+student+athletes+take+an+imPACT+test+as+a+baseline.+Following+an+injury+they+must+take+the+test+again+to+determine+if+they+are+safe+to+return+to+play.
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Head Games

All Dallastown student athletes take an imPACT test as a baseline. Following an injury they must take the test again to determine if they are safe to return to play.

All Dallastown student athletes take an imPACT test as a baseline. Following an injury they must take the test again to determine if they are safe to return to play.

McKenna Brodbeck

All Dallastown student athletes take an imPACT test as a baseline. Following an injury they must take the test again to determine if they are safe to return to play.

McKenna Brodbeck

McKenna Brodbeck

All Dallastown student athletes take an imPACT test as a baseline. Following an injury they must take the test again to determine if they are safe to return to play.

By McKenna Brodbeck, Dallastown Area High School

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Junior soccer player, Kyle Reuter, sat on the Dallastown bench during several big games this year. With no crutch, cast, or even a wrap, Reuter appeared to be healthy to the visible eye. However, he had a dangerous head injury that could have kept him from playing for several months, or even ever again.

“I just wanted to play and help my team, but I couldn’t. I just had to sit and watch,” Reuter said.

Reuter had a concussion–a brain injury caused by a blow to the head or a violent shaking of the head and body

There are more than three million reported cases in the United States every year with about 50% of them going unreported.

The most common cause of a concussion is physical contact from sports. The injury could be on a youth, high school, or even professional level.

Sports related concussions can cause several problems including loss of career, especially at the professional level. 

In 2018, former NFL player Joshua Perry retired at age 24 after his sixth documented concussion.

“My well-being is more important,” Perry said.

With any brain injury comes a risk of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

CTE is an incurable, degenerative disease found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma that at the moment can only be diagnosed after death. 

The lack of knowledge about diagnosing this disease is a problem since it has lead to death by suicide in a number of cases.

Many NFL players with a history of repeated concussions have been diagnosed with CTE. A 2017 Boston University study by Dr. Ann McKee examined the brains of over 200 former football players. The brains had been donated for medical research. Of the 111 brains of former NFL players, 110 showed signs of CTE. 

Terry Long, Andre Waters, Shane Dronett, Paul Oliver and many more have all suffered from this disease.

Former Ohio State cornerback, Kosta Karageorge, was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound after going missing in 2014.

A note was later found stating that Karageorge’s history of concussions had his “head all messed up”  according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Football players are not the only ones who are affected by CTE.

Anyone from soccer players to bicyclers, to those who just suffer from a random bump in the head have a risk of obtaining CTE.

Sports related brain injuries not only occur on a professional and college level but also on a high school level. 

Dallastown Athletic Trainer Laura Regener explained how the number of concussions vary from season to season.

“We see a large number of concussions in the fall during the fall season with sports such as soccer, football, and cheerleading. We could see as many as 40 in a year,” Regener said

Football and soccer tend to cause the most concussions at Dallastown, but with every sport comes risk.

The more contact the sport requires, the higher the risk of brain injury there can be.

Although CTE is a serious reality for athletes in high contact sports, there are many, smaller, day to day issues that affect those diagnosed with a concussion.

According to DHS nurse Ms. Sams, there is a lot that goes into getting a student athlete transitioned back into their normal routine.

“It is a team effort to support a student recovering from a concussion: student, parent, teacher, administrator, school counselor and nurse,” Sams said.  “As the school nurse, I am the ‘case manager’ for a student with a concussion.  I receive the concussion accommodation note and forward to teachers and school personnel.”

The school follows all modifications that are recommended by the physician and can include things from extra time on tests to not using electronics. These modifications help the patient recover and get back to their normal day to day activities.

Accomodations can be academic (lessening workload by 50% or eliminating non-essential assignments) or school day modifications (half days, eat in a quiet place, etc.).

Reuter, like many with concussions, experienced headaches, sensitivity to light and noise, confusion, which affected his school work and ability to get back in the game.

In order to return to their sport, athletes must follow the return to play protocol set by the physician and the school’s certified athletic trainers.

“It impacted my and the team’s season, essentially because I was out for more than half the year,” Reuter said, “I just really wanted to play, so it was hard watching the team play in counties and districts.”

There is not one specific way to prevent a concussion in sports since the brain is floating within the skull. This means any sudden impact to the head that causes the brain to shift, can cause a concussion. There are, however, things that can be done to lessen the chances. 

“You can try  to prevent concussions from occurring or the severity of a concussion by strength and agility training, by using proper equipment, and by using proper techniques in sport.” Regener said.

This story was originally published on The Beacon on February 19, 2019.

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