After the issues seminar about concussions, Shaw Hall was buzzing with conversation about sports safety. By talking with just a few MIPA participants it became clear that concussions are very common among student athletes and that there are growing concerns when it comes to the safety of those partaking in sports.
Midland High School student Emily Fisher and Dexter High School student Sydney Stewart both got concussions when they were 15 years old playing sports. Fisher was on the high school soccer field and Stewart on a club lacrosse team. Even though both girls were playing contact sports the outcomes of the concussions were very different. Stewart’s recovery was relatively quick and the injury was easy to bounce back from while it took more time for Fisher to get back to her normal routine.
“I had some headaches after but it wasn’t a major concussion at all,” Stewart said. “I had to stop playing lacrosse for a month or two. It was off season so it wasn’t a big deal, but I still missed going to practices and playing.”
According to Dr. David Kauffman of the MSU Neurology Department, 85 percent or more of people who are concussed will not experience the long-term effects of a complex concussion. Kauffman explained that at this point there is no way of determining from the start how to classify a patient’s concussions and the outcomes of their injury. While Stewart is part of the 85 percent and experienced a full recovery, Fisher still is working to get back to where she was a year and a half ago and suffered from a more complex injury.
“Since I got the injury playing goalie when I do certain drills in soccer I get headaches and have to sit out for a little while,” Fisher said. “The worst part of my concussion was probably that I couldn’t play soccer anymore. I was out for four or five games and I just had to sit on the sidelines and couldn’t even practice. Getting behind so much in school was hard, too.”
Clarenceville High School student Mitchell Hardy has already experienced three concussions and is just one away from ending his career as a student athlete. Being on both the football and wrestling team puts Hardy in constant danger of getting another injury, so he has to be more aware of what is going on than other students.
“I got one [concussion] from wrestling and two from playing football,” Hardy said. “My side effects have been chronic headaches and dizziness and my last concussion was the worst of the three. It kept me out for about four months and I couldn’t play any sports during that time. I’ve had to be more cautious with everything I do since getting my concussions. I also have to think about all of the choices I make. My doctor said that if I get one more concussion I’ll be out of sports for good, which would be awful.”
All three of these students’ stories share a common thread, rooted in setting high standards for themselves. None of these athletes wanted to miss practice or games and above everything just wanted to be tougher than the injury and not fall behind.
“In this day and age an individual [on a sports team] would rather die than admit to a doctor that he’s not feeling well,” Kauffman said. “Kids want to be out on the field, but sometimes that’s just not what they need to be doing at the time.”
The stigma that athletes who are able to finish a game despite an injury or come back and win when all the odds are against them is glorified by both fans and the media. Kauffman and other researchers agree that an imperative step in preventing more concussion injuries is to get away from the machismo that competitors are above injuries and basic medical needs.