Handling concussions at HSU

By Steven Bentley
Flapjack Chronicle

Recently, the concussion epidemic and its long term effects which continue to  plague our countries top all around football athletes, has reached an all time high with the discovery of CTE (a progressive degenerative brain disease found in individuals with long history of concussions of head trauma).  This disease along with the heavy scrutiny over a concussions affect on the longevity of a brain has caused much concern over the steps taken to prevent this with our collegiate football programs.  With the safety of our collegiate footballers in danger, the question has been raised as to what our schools are doing as preemptive measures.  There really is no clear cut definitive answer to this issue, but many universities just like Humboldt State University are continuing to move in the right direction.

Humboldt State athletics, most notably the football program, have steered in the precise way concerning concussion prevention.  As each season comes and goes, new concussion protocol and improvements are revealed.  The Humboldt Lumberjack football team endured a number of injuries this past season to their skilled athletes, much of them being concussions.  With these symptoms came the long process of keeping our football athletes brains safe and secure, while holding them out of the sport for the duration necessary.

Concussion issues are being handled quickly and pristinely here at HSU.  During the past football season, specific protocol was used to assisted and handle our athletes with concussions or concussion like symptoms.  Jake Campbell, the assistant athletic trainer here at the university, spoke a large amount about the way him and the other athletic trainers take care of a student athlete with a concussion.

“Usually when concussions are suspected (such as after a big hit, or when the player seems a bit lethargic after a strong impact of some sort) we pull the athlete aside and go through a series of neurological evaluations, the most important being the alertness and awareness of the athlete at that time. The ability for the athlete to appear clear and concise, as in casual conversation, is one that is hard to fake when an athlete is hurting, so we rely heavily on subjective appearance. If we deem the athlete concussed at that time, the athlete will be removed from the game and scheduled for the next available IMPACT test with Beth Larson.

“As we learn more and more about concussions, we can see that there are player’s brains showing long term effects of multiple sustained concussions,” stated the Lumberjack assistant trainer.

“However, this is likely due to mismanagement of the injury. If allowed to heal properly, in theory, there should be no limit to the number of concussions an athlete can sustain while remaining a healthy and able participant. Having said that, one athlete may have 10 minor concussions over the past 3 years and show no deficits, while another athlete may have only had one concussion with symptoms lasting over a year. There is much to be learned about concussions, but it appears when managed effectively, an athlete can recover fully from any mild concussion.”

When  Campbell was asked about his opinion to the CTE disease and its life threatening effect, he was very startled about its severity.

“The recent CTE findings in professional athletes are alarming, in my opinion.  I believe this is a result of improper concussion management likely due to a lack of adequate knowledge on concussions at the time. We see the buildup of tau proteins very clearly, however, it is not able to be measured until an individual has deceased and we are able to dissect the brain. Should a machine be invented that can accurately image tau proteins in the living brain, then i believe great strides will be made in the understanding of Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBI) or concussions. I believe this will change sports.”

Lumberjack football player Trevor Short talked about the IMPACT test and his opinion on athletes with multiple concussions in their careers.

“The IMPACT test basically determined whether or not you played in the next game or even the next 2 games.  Guys with a history of concussions sometimes can’t even pass the test or play the rest of the season.  The tests challenges your mind to see if you are well off enough than previously before to continue with the season.”

While the concussion problem in our collegiate programs events becoming more prominent, it seems as if Humboldt State University is taking the right steps to protecting its athletes.  With the installment of IMPACT testing and the findings of the many small concussions that go unnoticed throughout an athlete’s career, steps have been in place to find the problem and end it before becoming life threatening.  New protocol, ways to create a safer healing process and ways to improve the game have been underway and entering universities all over.  Only time will tell the real effect this protocol has on the concussion epidemic.

“We seem to have all the pieces to this concussion puzzle,” said Connor Waggoner.

“We have all the ways to make a change for the better and long run.  The time is now to create a safer playing environment for all.  Only time will tell.”

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