Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How Not to Handle a Concussion

My youngest son is headed into his final year of college this fall.  However, it looks like he may have played his last football game this past spring, but he should be finding out more after additional upcoming neurologist appointments.

He was hoping to at least remember the last organized football game he ever played, but it seems like that is not going to happen. College football has spring practices and then ultimately a spring game which is like an intra-squad game with a lot of strange scoring rules.

It was during this spring season and an internal game that my son received his concussion. He was tracking to have a very good year, but if you go out for one pass and hit your head hard into the ground, that can change many unfinished plans.

There are a few things around this whole incident that were not handled correctly and really infuriate me as a mom and especially his mom.

My son was able to review the play afterward on films. After the play, he could see he was laying still for a short time on the ground. He now believes that he was probably unconscious for even a few seconds during that time yet nobody came out to check on him and even left him in for another TEN plays. He had no idea what was going on during this time.

After the plays were over and when he got to the sideline on his own, his teammates noticed he was talking and acting strangely. They directed him to go to the athletic trainer. He got lost going the twenty or so feet over to him.

When they finally hooked up, the trainer did the right thing and told the coaches LittlePuppet was through for the day. Considering he couldn’t remember getting to football that morning, making his way to the sideline after the plays, he still thought it was spring break which was three weeks earlier, he couldn’t remember most of the day before and so forth; I would say the trainer made the right call about being finished for the day. At this point, nobody really knew what happened to him on the field, but he obviously had a serious head concussion.

The next step makes my blood boil. The trainer gave my son a few ‘simple’, but very dangerous steps to follow on his own. He wanted LittlePuppet to go to his dorm, take a shower, get a bite to eat at the cafe and meet the trainer back at his office. Deep breath…

My son would have needed to cross a busy road; by himself with a new head injury. Not only that, but about a month earlier, there was a student who was hit and killed by a car on that road. Enough said.

The trainer was sending my son, with a fresh head injury, back to an empty room ALONE. Enough said.

How would LittlePuppet be able to follow the ‘simple’ multi-step instructions the trainer gave him if he could not find the trainer who was a mere twenty feet from him on the side of the field? The answer, luckily he couldn't manage any of it.

Coincidentally, I received the phone call from the trainer about my son’s head injury as I was on my way to pick him up from school. I could not comprehend everything the trainer was saying and I was still forty-five minutes away from the school. The trainer had examined my son and decided to wait until I got to the school so I could take my son to the ER to get checked out.

After I made it to the school, my son was definitely not himself. He is usually very quick mentally, but he was not remembering much from that day at all and repeating everything he said. After we got to the ER, I was questioned by them about why the school didn’t send him to the ER right away. The people in the ER were great. Although there was a waiting line to register him, they took us in right away and brought us back into one of their critical care rooms.

The ER answered all of our questions and did a CT Scan that let us know he didn’t have any ‘bleeders’ in his head which would allow him to sleep as peacefully as he could that night; we didn’t have to keep waking him up as you always hear about with concussion patients which would help him heal.

My son has been back to the neurologist a few times since then and will be returning again next week. ‘Little’Puppet said it was funny when the neuro ordered the MRI. He said he didn’t fit in the machine and needed to squish his shoulders up to try to round his body off more. They were finally able to get the pictures they needed. What do you do if you don’t fit? I guess that’s where the open MRI comes in handy?

Since LittlePuppet still experiences symptoms from this concussion he received a few months ago, he has not been cleared to return to football yet. As the regular season is approaching, it looks likely that he will not be able to play football with his team this fall. This is also a little tough for him because he came into football camp last summer with a severly sprained ankle while getting in shape for camp and missed most of last season.   He is coming to terms with it, but he knows he will need his head and thinking capabilities for life. He knows that is the most important thing he really has to worry about.

One more thing about the school and his concussion which I have not mentioned before that is very important and probably pertains to his concussion or at least contributed to the degree of concussion he received. My son had a defective helmet.

With football and especially as the programs get more advanced where the players are bigger and stronger, the equipment must be top notch.  Some inside pads of football helmets are filled with air to make sure they fit each player snug. However, my son’s helmet needed to be topped off frequently – something I didn’t learn about until after. You can’t have defective equipment especially when it comes to your helmet and protecting your head!

I’d love to know what was discussed at this years American Headache Society Meeting about sports helmet design improvements which just concluded in June. Our children need the best equipment and helmets to give them the most protection.

There were too many errors made in the handling of my son after his concussion. Although he is still experiencing symptoms, I am glad things are not worse because there could have been terrible consequences to some of the actions that were asked to be taken.

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