7News Special Report: Concussions - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

7News Special Report: Concussions

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Sports injuries are never good for an athlete. However, discussions and information regarding head injuries, specifically concussions, has become much more prominent within the last few years.

We know the issue is being tackled at the NFL and collegiate level the best they can, but what about high school?

From the stands or in the comfort of our own homes, watching the big hits in college and NFL football is exciting. But for the athletes, it can be a very scary and dangerous situation.

When you look to the high school level, head injuries and concussions become an even more serious issue. In 2015, four high school football players in the United States died from complications due to head injuries, including in Oklahoma at Wesleyan Christian High School in Bartlesville. Aside from that, concussions have the chance to cause negative, long-term health effects in teens.

“Well, a young brain is more vulnerable to injury than an older brain. So, years later down the road, you might see more problems with maybe memory problems, emotional problems, learning difficulty from concussions at a young age,” explained Dr. Dan Horton.

In the past 20 years, protocols right here on the sideline have changed dramatically. It used to be if you got your bell rung or could still stand and see straight, you could go back into the game. Not anymore.

MacArthur High School head coach Brett Manning experienced this firsthand, recognizing how much different it is now compared to when he was a player.

“I remember having one, and I just finished the game. My head hurt until about Tuesday or Wednesday the next week, and then I played in the next game. It’s good that we are identifying them now and that we know the damages that they potentially have with them and erring on the side of caution is a good thing,” Manning said.

According to Lawton High School athletic trainer David Stanley, athletic trainers now conduct much more in-depth tests in order to find out the severity of the concussion.

The most common method is the sport concussion assessment tool, or SCAT3.

“I mean there’s some general questions about dizziness, blurred vision, difficulty remembering things. There’s a whole list of questions that way. Then there’s the typical what month is it? What day is it? What day of the week is it? What year is it? And then there’s words. The ability to recall words. You ask them a series of five words, and then they repeat them to you. You do that three separate times,” Stanley said.

When looking to the days following a concussion, Stanley says a player must be symptom free for seven days before returning to the field.

“If the kid had symptoms that subsided within a few minutes of the concussion, then we can go Friday to Friday, and that’s with a grade one. If we have repeated episodes of a grade two or grade three, then that time gets lengthened. Sometimes if a kid has a repeated grade two or grade three, he would be disqualified from athletics,” Stanley said.

Neither Stanley nor MacArthur athletic trainer Michael Garza have seen an increase in the number of concussions locally, but they are concerned about another potentially dangerous issue.

“I think the problem isn’t ‘is there anymore.’ It’s ‘can I get a kid to report it.’ A lot of kids will keep it to themselves and we won’t know unless we actually see the hit,” Garza said.

Equipment companies are working with concussion researchers in hopes of making the game safer.

“When it comes to helmets, there have been high-tech shells that have been added. Better padding, high-density foam padding. Plates that are on the helmets that receive a blow, and they're supposed to cushion the head. But, there’s no amount of protection you can put around the head that is going to prevent the brain from moving if a force is applied to the body or head,” Garza said.

One of the more common preventative measures comes with teaching the proper techniques of blocking and tackling.

“From day one, we start talking about the fundamentals of a tackle. And we don’t want to use our helmet as any part of the tackle. It’s just protection for the head,” said Randy Breeze, Lawton High School’s football coach.

Despite all the protective measures being taken, some parents may still voice concern about their children playing football.

“Football is a great sport, a great team sport. It teaches you so much about life and how to be a young man. That is great for society. I would not tell them that the concussion, the thought of having a concussion, should be enough to prevent their son from playing,” Garza said.

To learn more about how to keep your child safe when dealing with concussions check out cdc.gov/headsup.

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