Brain injuries hinder athletes



Michelle Stoddart, Managing Editor

Senior Alex Hamilton was a football player, one that loved the sport like many athletes. However, one hit caused a brain injury that took him out of the game. When he took a hit that gave him a concussion, his hopes for his final season dissipated as his doctors advised him to no longer play.

The short-term effects of concussions are often times ignored by many athletes, as they are often too focused upon being in the game, or not recognizing their symptoms.

“Short term, student athletes can have headaches, nausea, difficulty thinking, memory loss, vision difficulties,” athletic trainer Susan Smiley said. “Other symptoms depend on the area of the brain affected, and severity of the injury.”

However, the long-term effects are much more daunting, and may have severe effects upon every aspect of a students life, including their school work.

“I missed a week of school after my concussion,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes I still get really bad headaches because of it, too.”

Missing school is one problem that may come from concussions, however, it can also affect memory, the ability to process information and other things imperative to academic success. Junior McKenna Larsen suffered multiple serious concussions from competitive soccer.

“I had to miss a few weeks after both my concussions,” Larsen said. “It was so hard to catch up on work, because of my headaches too.”

However, the trauma of a concussion can be worsened if the symptoms go unrecognized, and another trauma occurs.

“A second impact to the head in an athlete with an active concussion can cause the symptoms to become much worse and make them last longer,” Smiley said. “In rare cases, you can have an athlete that develops Second Impact Syndrome.  The brain can start to swell and the athlete can die.  It is rare, but completely preventable if we let the athlete complete recover before they return to sports.”

Prevention is the best way to prevent concussions from occurring. In 2011, a law was passed in Texas called “Natasha’s Law”  for a soccer player, Natasha Helmick, who continued to play even after  severe concussion caused her to lose vision in her left eye. This provides medical assistance for all athletes playing for the school in an effort to prevent traumas such as concussions.

“I still have to take medication for it,” Larsen said. “Concussions aren’t a joke like a lot of people think.”

Click here to see a recent column about concussions.