Testing Helps School Stay Ahead of Concussions

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on concussions and student athletes at Branford High School.
By Maria Quagliano

According to CNN, "A new study from the National Academy of Sciences finds that high school athletes remain at risk for concussions -- and may be their own worst enemies.” Within high school sports kids are more willing to do anything to get a win, including putting their health at risk.

While being out on a field or court, a student-athlete may get a head injury but are likely not to tell their coach if they want to continue to play the game and help their team achieve the ultimate goal of winning.

Brittany Sullivan, a senior at BHS, suffered a concussion her sophomore year from basketball. It was a long process to eventually get cleared to play again, she said.

"I didn’t know that I had a concussion since I was hit in the nose and didn’t think that could cause one," she said. "So I waited a few days but realized that I could not focus in my classes and when I tried to I would start to have a pounding headache."

A few days later, she went to the doctors and found out that she had received a concussion and had to be very cautious for the next few weeks while recovering. If she did not follow the doctor’s instructions carefully she could have made the concussion a lot worse. When the school found out about the concussion the next step was to take the impact test,which determines if a student has a concussion or not.

Photo Credit: Kathryn Cooke

Some athletes at Branford High School must take an Impact Test  before the sports season starts. Photo Credit: Kathryn Cooke

Concussion policy at BHS designed to help athletes and coaches

The step Brittany took is now a part of the new concussion policy that high schools must follow if an athlete receives a concussion. This fairly new policy, which began in 2010, also states that coaches "of intramural or interscholastic athletes employed by the District shall complete an initial training course, approved by the State Board of Education, regarding concussions and head injuries, prior to commencing the coaching assignment for the season."

The policy was created so that coaches are more aware and trained to help a student when they just received a head injury. Concussions are becoming very common within high school and middle school athletes, an estimated 4 to 5 million concussions happen annually, so school systems such as BHS wants to make sure that their athletic directors and coaches are fully prepared to take care of an injured student.

Concussion rates lower with more focus, officials say

At BHS most of the concussions take place in the fall “since many football players get concussions,” Mr. Synodi said. During the school year usually between 12 and 15 kids get concussions in Branford High School but it can vary every year, Synodi said.

"[High School] coaches are usually very aware of when a student gets injured especially when a head injury occurs but sometimes they (the coaches) can’t see what happens at all time,” said Mr. Savas Synodi, the BHS athletic director.

Mr Synodi stated that, "Accidents are going to happen and the only way you can prevent them from happening is to teach proper techniques for the certain sport.” He believes that the concussion rates from this year are much lower than the previous years as of right now and thinks that is because of the coaches being more cautious while watching practices and games. 

For Brittany, the next step after she underwent the impact testing was to take it easy and try not to use computers or try to concentrate on something for along time. After a few weeks she then went back to the doctors to get cleared so she could then begin her training to go back to playing basketball. Doing this required her to go to Art Roy, the athletic trainer at BHS, where he would slowly work on getting her back into the game. "It was a long process of taking it slow and making sure that I was completely better before playing again but it was worth it," said Brittany while talking about the process she went through to get cleared to play. She explained how she would take time after school to run short distances and make sure that she was capable of playing a contact sport again.

Once she was cleared by Roy, she was allowed to play in the game again and said "I was so happy again to be able to play and be a part of  the basketball team again."