Every fall, as school gets underway, Nantucket High School students get excited about the many sports happening out on the playing fields. Watching the match ups and cheering the athletes on is a popular activity after school and during the weekends for many students, faculty members, and administration.
Unfortunately off the field, there are students who sustain injuries from playing. One of the most common injuries athletes suffer from is a concussion. A concussion is a disruption in the way the brain normally functions, most often caused by a sudden blow to the head combined with a rotational force. Casey Moran, athletic trainer at NHS, described it as a “whiplash force that causes a rotation of the head from side to side”. According to Moran, there have been about 10 concussions.
“There are a large amount of concussions every year,” she said. “Last year, I think we had a total of 19 concussions throughout all the seasons. This year I’ve had at least 10 this fall alone, and it’s been spread out through every sports team.”
Concussions affect each person differently depending on what part of the brain sustains the impact. The most common symptoms of a concussion are headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, difficulty looking at computer screens, reading, taking notes, concentrating, remembering, and feeling foggy or slowed down mentally. Many of these symptoms limit students from doing their school work and participating in the daily classroom setting. Students have trouble reading, taking notes, concentrating in class, studying and aren’t able to look at computer screens.
“[The time it takes to recover from a concussion] varies, and can be “anywhere from two to four weeks,” said Moran. “If there are still symptoms lasting more than four to five weeks, we would take a second look at it and see if it needs to be referred on to another neurophysiologist. The average that we see is usually out from sports for a week and a half to two weeks.”
This means that for almost two weeks, the athlete can’t play his or her sport and for two to four weeks the student may be at a disadvantage with school work and physical therapy and may not be able to attend practice at all.
Perhaps surprisingly, staying somewhat active, both physically and mentally, has been shown to shorten the recovery time.
“Studies have shown that getting people back to exercise quicker has shown improving effects for coming back from a concussion,” said Moran. “Also, taking away electronics and interactions with others actually can cause depression and can make symptoms linger a little bit longer, so by keeping kids active, keeping them in school, keeping them around their friends and keeping their social lives alive can actually help improve the symptoms of a concussion.”
Fortunately, there are things that athletes can do to limit the risk of getting a concussion. While at one time, it was believed that by strengthening a person’s neck muscles, the neck would be able to support the head and absorb the blow, one of the best ways to limit the chances of getting a concussion is to use the proper techniques taught by coaches and trainers.