Coaches learn more in Concussion Seminar

Published 8:30 pm Thursday, July 11, 2013

    “Put your hat on him! Make him pay for catching the football!”

     It’s a common exhortation coming from the mouth of a hard-nosed coach. He’s encouraging his players to make hard tackles on defense. Often, the helmet-to-helmet impact can be heard by the fans in the stands. It’s impressive, to say the least. It’s also dangerous. It can be deadly, too.”

     Area high school coaches gathered Tuesday for the Fourth Annual KDMC Concussion Seminar. They listened to speakers and watched videos regarding the hazards and consequences of concussions. For sure, concussions are a hazard when it comes to athletic activity.

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     Prevention is the best way to avoid a concussion. Girls suffer the most concussions in soccer. By contrast, boys get knocked senseless in football. Basketball, baseball and soccer can be hazardous, too.

     Lee Jenkins, executive director for the Mississippi Brain Injury Association, was among those who addressed the crowd at the sparkling KDMC Performance Center. She said the Magnolia State ranks third in brain injuries. That’s actually an improvement from once being No. 1.

     “The top three causes of concussions are auto accidents, falls and football,” said Jenkins, a mother of three children. “I’m a Mississippi State fan and I grew up loving to watch football games. Now, when I’m sitting in the stands, I just cringe when I see a player get hit in the head.”

     Jenkins said concussions are common. Younger children, all the way down to peewee football and T-ball, are the most susceptible. Many infant deaths can be attributed to violent shaking by the parent or an abusive baby-sitter.

     Obviously,  a concussion-proof helmet hasn’t been invented. NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt may have survived that Daytona 500 Raceway wreck 12 years ago if his helmet had been more protective.

     Jenkins said concussions don’t show up in MRI or CAT scan tests. Concussions can result from a hard blow to the body, not just the head.

     Most importantly, coaches need to recognize the seriousness of a concussion. Players are often told to “shake it off” and keep playing. Football is a macho game. Folks are fanatical when it comes to football.

     Under guidelines set by the Mississippi High School Activities Association, a player who sustains a concussion must sit out at least seven days before playing in a game. Jenkins said the best medicine is keeping the player on a bed in a dim light for several days.

     Quarterbacks, running backs and receivers are most susceptible to concussions. They are swarmed by defenders wanting to make a hard tackle or a bone-rattling sack. In recent years, the National  Football League has taken strong steps to protect the quarterback more from abusive hits.

     Jenkins referred to Second Impact Syndrome as extremely dangerous to young lives. A second or third concussion within a few weeks can be a fatal catastrophe. It can happen during practice, if a player already has suffered a concussion.

     “You coaches are important to these young athletes for keeping them safe,” said Jenkins. She recalled an incident when a football player sustained a second concussion in the season. It caused a severe reaction as he lost his sense of balance and his memory.

     Medical treatment for multiple concussions can make the difference between life and death. Some experts believe that NFL superstar Junior Seau’s  suicide was caused by multiple concussions leading to depression.

     Brain injuries can affect young and old alike. Prevention is the best method to avoid a concussion.

     Jenkins said Mississippi is the only state without a  Concussion Law.  Basically, the law would require all coaches, including parks and recreation coaches, to pull the their players out of the game until they have clearance from a doctor permitting them to play. The MBIA has introduced legislation to have such a law passed.

     Unfortunately, the new proposal was dumped by the  State Senate after it was passed by the House of Representatives. Jenkins said it never got out of committee. A second attempt the next year fell on deaf ears in the legislature.

     Parents and concerned citizens should contact their legislators and encourage them to pass a Concussion Law.


     Dr. John Turba, KDMC orthopedic surgeon, spoke to the group. He stressed the importance of swift medical care for athletes in all sports. The KDMC Therapy and Orthopedic Center is open from 7 a.m. to  6 p.m. Certified athletic trainers are assigned to 10 area high schools, Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Alcorn State University.

     On Friday nights, athletes can obtain analysis and treatment for injuries up until and past midnight, if necessary. Christi Mills, director for the treatment center, said 12 occupational therapists are available.

     Turba said correct diagnosis of a concussion is critical. He recalled a football player who had suffered two concussions during last season. KDMC refused to release him for an upcoming playoff game because he didn’t pass a brain scan. The player’s father then sought the advice of a neurosurgeon who proclaimed, “If you didn’t lose consciousness, you don’t have a concussion.”

     The player sustained a spinal hematoma at the base of his brain stem in the next playoff game. “It could have been a fatal injury,” Turba pointed out.

     Like the doc said, prevention is the best way to avoid a concussion.

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