When in doubt, sit them out
Got a headache? Nausea? Troubles sleeping? Double vision?
Dazed? Confused? Sluggish?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you might have a concussion.
Especially if you are a teenager.
And involved in some sort of physical activity, be it organized football or disorganized skateboarding.
If you are in any of the above categories, the National Federation of High Schools is on your side.
The NFHS is the governing body of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, which governs extra-curricular activities in the state.
The NFHS, aided by the Center for Disease Control, mandates coaches and sports officials are trained in concussion management. That means taught and tested.
Officials and coaches are taught there is no proper protection for concussions. That concussions are traumatic brain injuries created by a complex, physiological events.
No longer does the term “bell rung” carry any weight.
“He got his bell rung in the first quarter but we had him back in the game in the second half.”
Not today, Coach.
I remember getting my “bell rung” while in high school. I was a sophomore running scout team offense when Bill Dalke crushed me in the hole.
My vaguest memories were of the taped-up pants he wore in practice. Barely I can remember the tape across his thighs and my arms hanging limply against them.
Bill Dalke went on to a solid linebacking career at the University of Oklahoma. It was with pride I saw him stand Earl Campbell, a Heisman winner, on his head.
Bill Dalke’s son, Brad, eventually will make his way onto the PGA Tour.
Bill’s brother, Larry, was one of my dearest friends.
Larry did his best to comfort me that day after practice.
I don’t remember much but my teammates told me the coaches propped me up on a bench on the east end of our locker slash weight room. My friends wished me well as they walked by, I am told.
It was not my first time concussed. I remember riding a horse once — yes, I was letting it run back to the barn; a no-no — when it suddenly turned and the top of my head slammed into a wooden fence post.
I remember nothing more about that incident.
I also was concussed once when playing baseball. Some dude ran over me at home plate — back when that was the cool thing to do — and I hopped to my feet and sailed a throw to second base off the rightfield fence.
I instantly collapsed to the ground and began puking all over the place.
Concussions and me, you see, are good friends.
But not today, Coach.
The lyrics to a song very few people know — “Seek & Destroy” by Pop Will Eat Itself — are about the only ones I could find that discuss concussions or being concussed.
“Like concrete reduced to rubble
Concussed, you stagger and stumble
Tripped and ripped like a hemorrhage
Crack that whip until you’re destroyed.”
But I don’t remember staggering and stumbling after any of my concussions.
Crack that whip?
Not today, Coach.
We have learned in the last few decades that concussions are dangerous.
Coaches and officials are taught to check a player for dizziness and confusion if they fear he has been concussed. They are taught athletes usually do not get knocked out when concussed.
They also have learned only an appropriate health care official can decide whether a player is ready to return to action. Practice or game action.
Students generally take about two to three weeks to heal. Some take months.
Those who are sent back into action too soon are liable to suffer repeat concussions.
Those who suffer repeat concussions are liable to suffer long-term problems.
Football remains the No. 1 sport for concussions. But ice hockey is No. 2. Soccer, surprisingly, is third.
Girls soccer. It is known female athletes suffer more concussions than male athletes. The numbers nearly double in girls soccer and basketball than in games played by boys.
Coaches are taught to create a culture of safety with their teams. They are taught an athlete, if concussed, should go through a gradual return to athletics. After getting back into school.
“When in doubt, sit them out.”
Such is the saying for coaches and officials who deal with adolescent athletes.
It’s really quite simple.
Not today, Coach.