Trainers tackle topic of football concussions

By: James Hopkins Email
By: James Hopkins Email

High school football season about to kick off but is School District 51 doing enough to keep student athletes from getting sidelined with head injuries?

Many football fans watch it for the hard hits but for the players it can result in concussions. Repeated concussions can lead to severe, even permanent damage. "Safety of the students is paramount," says Mike Kruger, athletic director at Palisade High School.

Concussions can occur in an instant and the key to successful treatment is sidelining a player immediately. Kruger says players are made to sit out at the direction of a trainer.

Concussions are categorized in three classes. From a Class 1 to the more severe Class 3 the most common in football is a Class 1. "Class one usually resolves in about 15 minutes," says Neurologist Dr. Neil Gilman.

If a player suffers a Class 1 and is allowed to go back and play, the results can be devastating. "Unrecognized initial injuries leading to second injuries can be quite severe," says Neurosurgeon Dr. Brian Witwer.

Kruger has taken a strong position on head injuries and sits a player out immediately. "We have a strict stance of having a player cleared before returning to play," says Kruger. On top of trainers being on the sidelines for every game, Kruger takes safety to the next level. "Coaches are also schooled on what to look for," he says.

In the end, sitting out a few games can mean playing even more down the road. "You can always come back next year, but if you get a more severe concussion it can mean not being able to ever compete again," says Witwer.

A study out by the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, found that high school athletes sustained an estimated 137,000 concussions in the last school year, with football at the top of the list with more than 70,000.

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