Local Sports Medicine Physicians, High Schools Stress Importance of Concussion Safety

The football world is taking a step back as video of Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s injury continues to circulate on social media.

Fball“It obviously does not look great,” said Traverse City Central Athletic Director Justin Thorington. “Given the fact that he kind of stumbled on the field two weeks ago, and then last night what happened, it doesn’t look good.”

Dolphins’ head coach Mike McDaniel said Tagovailoa suffered a concussion, something no athlete wants to go through.

“It’s a head injury where the brain sustains an injury where there’s a hard blow to the head,” said Great Lakes Orthopedic Center Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Thomas O’Hagan. “You can think of it as the brain essentially rattles in the skull, and that causes a concussion.”

TCAPS and Great Lakes Orthopedic Center have formed a partnership, and have an athletic trainer and sports medicine physician on the sideline of each home game.

“There’s an MHSAA protocol so if we know a kid has a concussion there’s actually steps to take before he can even rejoin practice,” said Thorington.

Dr. O’Hagan said it’s a step by step process if they suspect an athlete has a concussion.

“When we see one that’s concerning or even a question then we pull the athlete off to the side, the helmet comes off,” he said. “It’s usually the trainer and myself evaluating them. We then go through protocol, which is usually a series of questions and then observations of watching the athlete and how they respond.”

From there, they determine the best course of action.

“If there’s any question of a concussion, then that athlete remains out for the remainder of the game,” said Dr. O’Hagan. “If there’s not, then it’s deemed the player’s safe and he’s doing well, we run him through a series of drills on the sidelines just to make sure he’s fully ready, and then can reenter the game.”

Dr. O’Hagan said there’s several side effects when someone suffers from a concussion.

“Players will have some memory loss, so we run through questions as east as what is the score or what’s today’s date, who are you playing,” he said. “They’ll be sensitive to light or have headaches, they have a hard time concentrating afterwards, so there’s some immediate signs if we look for them immediately.”

Dr. O’Hagan said concussion awareness, and education, has changed dramatically in the last 10-15 years.

“There’s such a difference in how cautious we are about concussions and the protocols and the safety measures,” he said. “The coaching and the athletic directors play such a big role in that because they’re all watching out for it.”

Thorington said there’s also changes on how long players can practice contact time.

“Our contact time for practice we have to track and it’s been limited especially since I went to school,” he said. “The more we learn about concussions, the more we’re able to react.”

While brain injuries are not visible – it’s still something health professionals and those in athletics say needs to be taken seriously.

“While it’s true we know more about head injuries than we ever have, that also makes football sports more safer than they’ve ever been,” said Thorington. “We’ve been able to act accordingly.”