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By Nick Schrager
Imagine 30 state college football stadiums. Now pack them to the brim with people and line them up side-by-side. That is 3.8 million seats. Now, imagine each seat represents a sports related concussion.
That’s the maximum number of sports related concussions that occur each year, according to Dr. Tad Seifert, director of the Sports Concussion Program of the Norton Neuroscience Institute in Louisville.
On July 25, the “Understanding sports concussions” seminar was hosted by the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky in Angelic Hall in Lebanon.
The seminar was free and open to the public. During the event, Seifert discussed important facts about concussions, particularly within the high school arena.
“When we talk about concussions, we think of football… this isn’t a football issue,” Seifert said. All sports can lead to brain injury, however football rates at around the highest risk, 53 percent.
Approximately 60,000 high school students (most of who are under 18 years of age) who are enrolled in athletic programs sustain concussions each year.
In fact, while there is no uniform definition of a concussion, Seifert said the American Academy of Neurology has defined a concussion as “a trauma-induced alteration in mental status that may or may not involve a loss of consciousness. Confusion may occur immediately after the blow to the head, or several minutes after.”
“Things aren’t always clear and evident at the time of the trauma,” Seifert said.
He displayed an x-ray and photograph of the same brain which sustained massive injury and discussed what the x-ray looked like. Afterwards, Seifert had a short fact vs. fiction section and pointed out that one myth is that mouth guards can help prevent concussions.
“It’s voodoo,” Seifert said.
He said mouth guard companies use clever marketing in order to sell their products.
Seifert also pointed out that boys tend to receive more concussions than girls because they play more sports that make them vulnerable to the injury. While girls get fewer concussions than boys, they are actually more prone to getting a concussion because of neck strength.
And, Seifert pointed out, a person can suffer from a concussion even if their head has not been impacted.
“A concussion occurs when the brain actually rattles around in the skull,” Seifert said.
That means as long as there is a whip like movement of the head, a concussion is possible and anyone who is treating a suspected concussion has to prove otherwise before moving forward with any plan.
Along with Seifert, Julian Tackett, commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, also spoke. According to Tackett, legislation has recently been passed in Kentucky to help prevent tragedies that stem from concussions.
“All people [anyone with a role in the game and medical personnel] are supposed to be watching for signs and symptoms of concussions,” Tackett said.
Coaches must train on identifying and treating concussions, he said.
However, unless there is a medical provider present at the game to prove otherwise, no one is allowed say there has not been a concussion and a student athlete cannot return to play until it is proven they have not had one, Tackett said.
If signs are evident, the student must sit out the rest of the session with someone by their side.
“Someone’s got to be with that kid,” Tackett said.
Tackett also reminded the audience that there is no commercial product that can be added to a helmet that makes it more resistant to impacts and prevent concussions.
Both Tackett and Seifert discussed guidelines for a student’s recovery. There is a six step recovery plan that must be implemented.
The six steps include: No activity, light-aerobic exercise, sport-specific exercise, non-contact training drills, full-contact/competition practice, and finally, return to normal gameplay.