MedWatch: Understanding Concussions

 "What year is it?"

This is no ordinary quiz for Mikenna Ray. Athletic trainer John McDougall is giving her a baseline test.

"A baseline helps us detect a concussion if maybe we’re not sure, so maybe the coach is on the sidelines and he’s got 40 players can he quickly remember how a student should answer something how he should respond to something if he can quick pull him off and reassess him, and compare it to his baseline, then we know where he is normally and where he is now." explained Jennifer Ritter, Munson Medical Center’s Injury Prevention Coordinator

"Now I’m going to give you a list of words and I want you to repeat them back in any order," said McDougall. 

It’s one of many ways schools are trying to protect their athletes in case of a concussion. McDougall works with students at Traverse City West High School and Middle School. He’s also an employee of Munson Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Program — and his first goal is prevention.

"In football, one of the things we always stress is never to lead with the head. We’re always talking about keeping the head up, you never want to go into a tackle or into a group of individuals in football with a head level or down."

But despite being proactive and protective, Munson’s Injury Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Ritter says what scares her is the alarming number of students getting out of sports — especially those considered high impact.

"We don’t want to stop people from doing what they like," said Ritter. "So if we can teach them the right stuff, whether it’s a non impact sport and wearing a helmet, or it’s an impact sport where we’re pushing the helmet, but also teaching some behavior changes and technique changes that we can hopefully prevent those sever impact. Then the can still play and play safe I think."

That’s why she works with students of all ages and their parents — to teach them how to play safely — and recognize a problem.

"It’s so confusing sometimes especially for parents to recognize these. Sometimes they can tell right away where we run into problems is sometimes kids might show symptoms days or weeks later, and the parent, they’re tired or lethargic or dizzy or they have a headache, and a parent isn’t relating it to the concussion they had four days earlier or something because that’s done and forgotten."

The awareness is a good thing – so students can play hard. Parents can understand the signs at home — and feel confident when they’re not around.

McDougall says, "we are the allied health professionals and working in the schools and we’re at the sidelines and it’s just we are a lot of point of contact for parents, coaches, athletic directors and pretty much letting every body know we’re all on the same page. So nothing gets missed and nothing gets through the cracks."

Kohl’s 4 Seasons for Safety supports the injury prevention program in the Grand Traverse community.  You can be a part of the giving circle by buying those $5 books or stuffed animals at the front of the store.

Categories: MedWatch