New concussion rules draw awareness to head injury

Kelly Cordingley, Editor in Chief

A 200-some-pound football player tackling his opponent onto his back happens all the time in games.
Coaches telling a player to shake it off isn’t uncommon, either. However, with new guidelines for concussion symptoms, shaking it off may not be an option anymore.
A concussion is qualified as a traumatic brain injury and needs time to rest and heal before it can function normally. BV athletic trainer Roberta Kuechler said concussions in teenagers and young adults are critical because the brain is still developing.
“If you get one concussion, it needs to fully heal because if you get another one before it is healed, permanent damage could occur,” Kuechler said. “You could have headaches for the rest of your life or even die if you don’t let your brain heal.”
There is new software out that makes it easier to diagnose concussions.
First, the athlete takes a video-game style test while they are completely healthy. The test involves memory and reaction times and can be taken on any computer.
If it is suspected that a player has a concussion, they take the test again and compare the results to the first test to see the severity the concussion.
“You think you’re OK and you feel better than you really are,” junior Rick McCaw said.
According to the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA), any player who exhibits signs of a concussion will be immediately removed from the game and can not be cleared to practice or play the same day.
The athlete can’t return until cleared by an appropriate medical professional, a medical doctor or osteopathic doctor.
The National Football League passed a series of new regulations earlier this year, but these regulations have always been mandatory at BV.
During the football season, coaches take concussions very seriously. Coach Eric Driskell knows how a concussion can feel. He has had five or six diagnosed concussions since his freshman year in high school.
“I remember having an argument with my parents and 15 minutes later not remembering what it was about,” Driskell said. “It really freaked me out.”
Precautions are taken to prevent players from receiving a concussion. Air pockets in all of the football helmets are carefully checked by staff prior to practices and games to make sure there is enough cushion in case of a jolt to the head.
“Some players like their helmets looser, but we just can’t do that,” Driskell said.
Junior Garret Schoenfeld ran a drill the first practice and lowered his head for a tackle, colliding heads with another player.
This collision resulted in his brain lunging forward in his head causing a mild concussion and the compression of his spine.
“It’s legit going to happen,” Schoenfeld said. “It’s our fault if we lower our heads during tackles.”
Kuechler said one common misconception is that a player has to be knocked unconscious for their concussion to be taken seriously.
According to the KSHSAA, symptoms of a concussion can manifest themselves differently.
Some people will have blurry vision, dizziness, loss of memory, vomiting and in some cases, loss of consciousness, along with a list of other symptoms.
“I had one before, so I knew something was wrong with me,” Schoenfeld said. “I had blurry vision and was really disoriented. It was scary because I lost my memory.”
Junior Natalie Gloor experienced her first concussion during volleyball tryouts on the first day of school.
“My body hit the ground and then my head bounced on the floor,” she said.
Gloor said she remembers being very dizzy and not being able to stand well. Coach Jessica Palmer immediately took her to the trainer who asked her questions to test her memory.
McCaw experienced a concussion during a soccer game.
“I don’t remember how I got it at all, I was told I got an elbow to the face,” he said.
He didn’t know he had a concussion until the next day. The night he got the concussion he was unable to walk, shaking uncontrollably and was speaking with a lisp.
He went to Keuchler who checked his pupils and gave him a written test to diagnose his symptoms.
“It is important to teach the correct mechanics of tackling and head placement,” Keuchler said. “Students and coaches need to be educated on what a concussion is and what to look for, too.”