10 Signs Your Child’s Concussion Is Serious — and What to Do

If your child suffers a concussion, whether while playing sports or from a fall or other accident, keep a close watch for symptoms of more severe brain trauma.

“Parents should be concerned about a series of things we call red-flag issues,” says neurologistAndrew Russman, DO. “These are symptoms that warrant a prompt evaluation because they could signal something more worrisome than just a concussion.”

Watch for these 10 red-flag symptoms

If you see any of the following symptoms after a concussion, go to an Emergency Department immediately for a medical evaluation:

  1. Severe or worsening headache or ringing in the ears
  2. Neck pain
  3. Vomiting
  4. Increasing confusion or dizziness (Some patients exhibit sadness about the injury, unusual or irritable behavior or the inability to recognize people or places.)
  5. Fainting, drowsiness, significant decline in alertness, inability to waken from sleep, any prolonged loss of consciousness
  6. Seizures
  7. Slurred speech
  8. Weakness or numbness in arms or legs
  9. Clear, watery discharge from the nose or ears, or bloody discharge from the ears
  10. Pupils that are unequal in size

Of these, Dr. Russman says, the most common are headache, neck pain, and fogginess or dizziness.

“The basic concern is to know to identify the concussion symptoms and seek medical attention appropriately,” he says. “If there are some of these red flags, an ER evaluation is important.”

How to handle a less serious concussion

Dr. Russman addresses two common misconceptions about concussions.

First, if a child suffers a concussion, he or she does not necessarily need a CT scan, he says.

“Few patients with concussions will benefit from any type of brain imaging in their early evaluation,” he says. “In fact, ERs have a whole list of criteria for requiring a CT scan, so the patient would have to have at least one of the red-flag symptoms.”

Second, you don’t have to keep the child awake if he or she is not showing any of the red-flag symptoms, he says.

“As long as the child has remained awake and alert, there’s no reason that you have to wake them if they fall asleep at a normal time,” he says.

Again, if the child’s condition worsens or he exhibits any of the red-flag symptoms, take him or her immediately to the ER.

What usually happens when a child athlete gets a concussion?

Typically, if your child gets a concussion during an organized athletic event, one or more members of a team of trained medical professionals will examine him or her immediately. This usually starts with a team physician or athletic trainer on the sidelines. A physical therapist, pediatrician or neurologist may examine your child later.

After that initial evaluation, the medical professional will help decide whether the child should go to the office for a follow-up evaluation, to the ER for immediate medical attention, or whether he or she is well enough for parental observation at home.

“They should never return to the sport on the same day they have had the injury,” says Dr. Russman. “Next, they need to go through a graded program of physical recovery under the direction of a licensed healthcare professional.”

The goal for athletes

While most patients may not need an ER evaluation, they all need to carefully follow a set of guidelines that will return them to the classroom first, and then return them to their athletic activities, Dr. Russman says.

“The point person on the sidelines, the team physician and the athletic trainers, as well as the other medical professionals involved, will follow up and continue to evaluate and eventually help the child return to learn and return to play,” he says.

Source: “10 Signs Your Child’s Concussion Is Serious – and What to Do – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. N.p., 31 Aug. 2015. Web. 31 Aug. 2015.

10-year-old boy dies at football practice in Charlotte



A 10-year-old boy died Thursday after collapsing at a peewee football practice in northwest Charlotte, officials said.

Officials have not released O’Maury Chambers’ cause of death.

Eyewitness News reporter Ken Lemon spoke to family and friends shocked by what happened.

A witness said it was a normal practice at the field behind Thomasboro Academy Tuesday.

O’Maury was running with the other members of the West Charlotte Hornets youth football team when he suddenly stopped and collapsed, according to a witness. He later died at the hospital.

His family members were too shaken to talk about what happened.

A resident who lives near the field said she is stunned.

“It’s sad because the child was 10,” Jackie Davis said. “He really hadn’t got to live his life.”

She has heard the team practices from time to time and said they seemed to be happy.

“All of sudden, something like this happens and you least expect it to happen,” Davis said.

All of the men in her family played youth football.

She said it is a positive outlet for young men in the community.

“They don’t have a center to go to or anything,” she said.

After practice, the coach wrote in a Facebook post, “If your kids playing sports or anything, (get) them a physical.”

A coach said members from 20 teams plan to meet at the practice field and honor O’Maury.

Source: Lemon, Ken. “10-year-old Boy Dies at Football Practice in Charlotte.” 10-year-old Boy Dies at Football Practice in Charlotte. N.p., 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.

Football rule changes continue to focus on player safety


Player safety is again at the top of the agenda for football officials this season as a new high school and youth season kicks off.

With the number of players in youth and high school football dwindling every year due to injuries, especially concussions, the National Federation of State High School Associations, the governing body of most public school high school sports, has made it clear that the safety of the players is the top concern.

Therefore, the rule changes that take effect for the 2015 season revolve mainly around risk minimization.

Excessive contact has been added to the unnecessary roughness rule and the definition of spearing has been revised. Rounding out the six rule changes are: the referee has the authority of correcting a down number, the kickoff formation rule has been revised, the roughing the passer foul has been clarified and dead-ball penalty enforcement has been modified.

“Most of the rule changes are really administrative, with the emphasis being on safety,” said Tom DeGraw, director of football for Champion Officials Group. “Fans have to remember that these are 15-, 16- and 17-year old kids out there. They see it on Saturday or Sunday on TV and they want to emulate that. It is not needed at this or the youth level.

With an emphasis on safety, the unnecessary roughness provisions were expanded. No player or nonplayer can make any other contact with an opponent, including a defenseless player, which is deemed unnecessary or excessive. If the foul involves illegal helmet contact and is judged flagrant by an official, the offending player could be ejected and his team assessed a 15-yard penalty.

“The rule changes reflect a trickle-down effect from the pros to college and college to high school. In the pros, the game is full of unnecessary and excessive hits. The NFHS, for safety sake, has said that we have to put a stop to this on the high school level,” DeGraw said. “We’re being told to crack down on these types of hits. Especially using the helmet. People need to remember that when one of these explosive hits occurs, someone who delivers the blow could get injured, as well as the one who receives the hit.”

The definition of spearing was revised to continue the focus on minimizing injury. Spearing is an act by any player who initiates contact against an opponent at or below the shoulders with the top portion of his helmet. Again, if judged flagrant, the offending player could be ejected after a 15-yard penalty is enforced.

The roughing the passer penalty also has been clarified. Now, an automatic first down is not awarded for an incidental face-mask penalty against the passer. The penalty remains five yards.

In a revision of the 2014 rule change regarding kickoff formations, the timing of the foul for not having at least four players on each side of the kicker now occurs when the ball is kicked, as opposed to when the ready-for-play whistle is blown by the referee. This will now allow “muddle-huddles” on the kickoff again.

Starting in 2015, the distance penalties for unsportsmanlike, non-player or dead-ball personal fouls committed by teams can now offset. Equal numbers of 15-yard penalties by both teams will cancel and remaining penalties may be enforced.

Finally, the referee is granted authorization to correct the number of the next down prior to the ball becoming live after a new series of downs has been awarded. The referee can avoid any “fifth down” situations.

With the changes in football and the addition of new offensive and defensive schemes, new blocking and tackling techniques have placed an emphasis on expanding the length and width of each play, resulting in more opportunities for unnecessary or excessive contact to occur between players.

Source: Morea, Mike. “Football Rule Changes Continue to Focus on Player Safety.” Capitalgazette.com. N.p., 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 28 Aug. 2015.

After a blow: Pennsylvania’s rules for treating school athlete concussions


Pennsylvania’s Act 200, which took effect in 2012, established standards for managing concussions and traumatic brain injuries among school athletes, assigning specific duties to the state departments of health and education and outlining specific protocol for schools to follow.

Coaches must take training courses and schools must hold information meetings on head injuries prior to the start of each athletic season.

Out on the field, the athletic trainer is often the first person who interacts with the injured player.

The trainer will do an assessment using a sideline concussion assessment tool, which includes a neurological assessment, a cognitive test and a balance test.

A very specific protocol for re-entry into playing sports starts with no activity until all symptoms are gone and the player is able to endure the academic challenge of a full day at school, followed by a gradual easing back into play over several days with limited time on the field and gradually escalating exercise.

Before they return to play, students must be cleared by a supervising physician.

Dr. Robert Harbaugh, director of the Penn State Hershey Neuroscience Institute, said coaches have a big role to play in safety. They need to teach the correct techniques for heading the ball and look for any evidence of concussion if someone takes a tumble or gets an elbow to the head.

Players also need to take responsibility for how they play and how they react when injured, he said.

“Don’t try to hide if you feel dizzy or have symptoms,” he said. “If you have a concussion and continue to play, you increase the chances of a second concussion.”

Source: Kimmel, Carolyn. “After a Blow: Pennsylvania’s Rules for Treating School Athlete Concussions.” N.p., 27 Aug. 2015. Web. 27 Aug. 2015.

Football practices potentially could change


For most high school football coaches player safety is always of paramount concern. But, even with advances in technology and coaching techniques, injuries are still a part of the game. With that in mind, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Sports Medicine and Football Subcommittee put together a plan in May to change the way practices were structured for the preseason.

Under the MIAA guidelines for the 2015 season — which are the same as those used in recent seasons — football practice began on Monday with teams not allowed to work in full pads before Thursday. Teams also are allowed a total of 10 practice sessions until the Friday before Labor Day. Double sessions count as two practices.

Teams also are not allowed to have a practice session that is more than two hours with scrimmages not permitted until the third day of full-pad practice.

The proposal brought before the MIAA board in May would have brought several changes, including the start date for practices and when contact could begin.

The new plan would have moved the opening of camps from Aug. 24 to Aug. 21 with the same 10 total practices allowed before Labor Day. Teams also would have to conduct five days of practice that involved no contact before being allowed to use full pads.

The proposed plan would mandate a day off during each week of practice and would limit full-contact drills to 60 minutes per day in the preseason.

On June 9, the MIAA’s Board of Directors elected to table the proposal until December, giving schools more time to discuss the proposition and its new rules and effects before the plan comes back up for another vote.

St. Mary’s athletic director Jeff Newhall believes the reasoning behind the proposed changes is sound but that the timetable wasn’t feasible for this season.

“I think that most of the proposed changes were done with player safety in mind and for that the committee should be commended,” Newhall said. “But to think that it was something that could be put into place this quickly wasn’t realistic.”

Marblehead athletic director Mark Tarmey is one of those who was not in favor of the proposal being implemented, largely because the high school football season already is the longest one of any sport in the state.

“With football, you start in the heat of the summer and end in the freezing cold of November and December in some cases,” Tarmey said. “I just don’t see the value to starting the season three days early. You have a lot of kids that go away to camps in the summer and have jobs that they’d have to leave early to begin football. There’s a lot of issues that people don’t see that are part of it.”

Former Swampscott and current Milton High head coach Steve Dembowski is the president of the Massachusetts Football Coaches Association. The MFCA was not in favor of implementing the proposal for this season because of the timing involved and for financial reasons. For example, many teams had already made monetary commitments for summer camps and practice sites that were nonrefundable.

Going forward, though, Dembowski believes the proposal should be implemented.

“The high school season has the least amount of prep time at all levels of football,” Dembowski said. “That limited amount of time puts a lot of stress on coaches because you have to install your offensive and defensive systems and take care of special teams. And then you add drills about tackling and blocking and that takes time. Most coaches would be in favor of getting rid of double sessions if it meant they could start earlier.”

Like most coaches, Revere’s Lou Cicatelli is all for improving the safety of his players. The logistics of implementing those improvements, however, concerns him.

“It’s something that’s been a long time coming,” Cicatelli said. “The worry is how much of a change it’s going to make. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. The more you practice tackling, the better the kids are going to get it. But you also want to make sure they do it right and safely. That’s what it’s about.”

Chris Carroll, who is entering his first season as coach at Lynn English, understands the reasons behind the proposed changes.

“You always want to make sure that the kids are ready for the contact,” Carroll said. “And that’s your responsibility as a coach. Player safety is a priority at all levels.”

Dembowski has seen changes in the way teams prepare now compared to just five years ago.

“A lot of teams have less contact,” Dembowski said. “You’re on the field four days a week but this year you’re only allowed to hit for two hours (per week during regular season practice). It forces you to be a better coach and more efficient.”

Although the proposal was tabled for this season, that does not preclude coaches from changing their practice format for this year. However, most say they will follow the current guidelines.

Source: Roy, Matthew. “Football Practices Potentially Could Change.” Itemlive.com. N.p., 27 Aug. 2015. Web. 27 Aug. 2015.

Concussions can occur in all youth sports


Recent attention to long-term brain damage linked to multiple concussions among professional football players has prompted a much closer look at how children and adolescents who participate in sports can be protected from similar consequences.

And with good reason. The young brain is especially susceptible to concussion, and sports-related concussions account for more than half of all emergency room visits by children ages 8 through 13, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. A child who suffers a concussion is one and a half times more likely to have another, and those who have had two concussions have a threefold greater risk of the same injury happening again.

Many parents wonder if it is wise to let their children participate in sports like football and soccer, in which head injuries are most common. Concerns about concussion have been cited as a reason for a decline in enrollment in Pop Warner, the country’s largest youth football program.

At the same time, misconceptions among parents and coaches abound about the seriousness of concussions and how best to prevent them, especially for players who often think they are invincible and say they feel fine, so they can get back in the game. Studies have found that more than 50 percent of high school athletes and 70 percent of college athletes failed to report concussions they had suffered while playing football.

But first, it is worth noting that almost no sport is free of a concussion hazard, and that participating in sports has “cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits that outweigh everything,” said Steven P. Broglio, director of the Neurotrauma Research Lab at the University of Michigan and the lead author of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement on how best to deal with concussions among young athletes.

For far too long, concussions have been minimized, with youngsters who have suffered one often going back into the game much sooner than they should, sometimes on the very day they are injured. Experts say that even the language commonly used to describe a hit – like “ding” or “bell ringer” – minimizes the seriousness of the injury and should be abandoned.

Perhaps concussions would command greater respect if they were called by their proper medical term: mild traumatic brain injuries. A concussion is caused by a direct or indirect blow to the head. The brain is jostled against an unyielding skull, temporarily disrupting normal neurological and metabolic functions.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to lose consciousness to have suffered a concussion. Ninety percent of concussions involve no loss of consciousness or only a brief disruption of mental alertness. You don’t even have to hit your head – a whiplash injury can cause one.

Furthermore, the usual five-minute assessment done on the sideline to check an injured athlete’s ability to orient, remember, concentrate and recall words “misses about 40 percent of concussions,” Broglio said in an interview. “A single test is not diagnostic and should not be relied on. Multiple different tests taken together can increase the sensitivity to the mid- to upper 90s.”

However, the time allotted to assess an injured athlete on the sideline is often inadequate to determine whether it is safe for a player to return, Broglio said. One of the most dangerous effects of failing to detect a concussion and allowing time for a young athlete to recover is second-impact syndrome – rapid, catastrophic swelling of the brain that can cause lifelong impairments, coma and even death – should the athlete have another concussion.

A growing number of parents now weigh the risks of concussion when helping their children decide which sport to pursue. The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences reported in 2012 that tackle football players suffered the most concussions among high-school-age athletes, with 11.2 reported among 10,000 “athletic exposures” – the number of practices and games in which an athlete participates. Lacrosse was the next riskiest, with 6.9 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures although one recent study found ice hockey and wrestling to be more hazardous than lacrosse.

Among girls, soccer is associated with the highest risk – 6.7 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures, according to the academy study. Although many focus on the hazards of heading the ball, a new study of high school soccer players found that contact with another player was by far the most frequent cause of concussions among female and male players.

The study’s authors, from the University of Colorado School of Public Health, predicted that “banning heading is unlikely to eliminate athlete-athlete contact or the resultant injuries.” They noted that soccer had become a much more physical sport in recent years, resulting in more collisions between players.

Girls’ basketball is not far behind, with 5.6 concussions per 10,000 exposures, a rate twice that of boys’ basketball.

Gymnastics has had a sharp rise in concussions in recent years. As the USA Gymnastics organization pointed out last year, “a concussion can be caused by a hit to the body, not just the head.”

Its statement added, “A gymnast could fall, have a whiplash type movement and sustain a concussion even though they didn’t hit their head.”

The lowest concussion rate is associated with swimming, with only 0.2 such injuries per 10,000 exposures among girls and 0.1 among boys who swim competitively, according to a 2012 study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Every athlete, parent and coach should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of concussion, some of which may show up hours or days after the injury. The athletic trainers’ report includes these:

•Difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating or remembering new information.

•Headache, blurry vision, queasiness or vomiting, dizziness or balance problems or sensitivity to noise or light.

•Irritability, moodiness, sadness or nervousness.

•Excessive sleepiness or difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep.

Any of these should be reported without delay to a coach, athletic trainer, parent or school nurse. Especially worrisome is a symptom that worsens with time.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws to protect young athletes suspected of having suffered a head injury. Most important, the laws stipulate that no one with even a slight concussion should return to play the day of injury. The athlete should be evaluated and cleared by a health care provider trained to do so before returning.

Source: Brody, Jane E. “Concussions Can Occur in All Youth Sports.” Telegram.com. N.p., 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 26 Aug. 2015.

MIAA teams with ThinkTaylor and INARIA to raise concussion awareness in soccer


FRANKLIN – The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) announced a new initiative yesterday, entering into a partnership with former New England Revolution star Taylor Twellman’s foundation, ThinkTaylor, and soccer equipment company INARIA to introduce Concussion Awareness Week.

The initiative is aimed at helping raise awareness and better educate soccer players, parents, coaches and trainers on concussion injuries and proper treatment and will take place at all MIAA member schools hosting boys and girls soccer games during the week of Sept. 21.

Those schools will be encouraged to paint their fields orange, and will be given special balls, wristbands, scarves and information tags for each player’s equipment bags aimed at raising awareness.

“We need concussion awareness, recognition, education,” said Twellman, now the lead soccer analyst for ESPN. “At ThinkTaylor, we call it the care program and its real simple. If we can change three things, the awareness, the recognition and the education, then we’re going to make a difference.”

While this program is soccer-specific, the issue of concussions and traumatic brain injury extends across all sports.

“This is an opportunity and when folks come to the table and ask to participate in a partnership that we assess will make a significant difference, we jump on it,” said MIAA Executive Director Bill Gaine. “Irregardless of that, we have a responsibility as an association to continually reflect upon current standards and expectations vis a vis rules in all sports. We do have in place a sports medical committee and that committee continually are recommending more changes for the benefit of our student athletes. We have a universal issue but this is an opportunity to make a significant positive change and address problems in a particular sport community.

Twellman added, “I don’t care if you’re skateboarding, horseback riding, gymnastics, cheerleading, or playing football. “I get as many phone calls from football athletes as I do from soccer athletes. We’re equipped as a foundation to direct you to the right people, the doctors, to do the right thing. If another state comes to us and says mens and womens ice hockey, we want to do this, we’ll do it.”

Twellman used himself as a perfect example of how education in the area of concussions and traumatic brain injuries has been sorely lacking. He noted that he took and passed more than 70 baseline tests after suffering his concussion on Aug. 30, 2008, but was still unable to resume his career.

“The hardest thing for athletes to understand is, honesty on this injury is the most important thing,” he explained. “If a doctor looks you in the eye and says you’re fine but in your heart and in your head you don’t feel right then you have to speak up. That’s where I think it’s changed from 2008 to 2015. The moment the athlete is honest and says something, I think we have more people around him saying you have to sit out where in 2008, it was suck it up. I don’t think it happens as much but it’s still happening.”

Source: Ventura, Dan. “MIAA Teams with ThinkTaylor and INARIA to Raise Concussion Awareness in Soccer.” N.p., 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 26 Aug. 2015.

Local athletes find out the dangers of concussions the hard way


It all started with a header.

In a fight to win the ball during a game last September while playing for his club team, Liam Kroontje pushed his feet off the ground to meet the soccer ball with his head. As the 18-year-old player, who was a senior at Lynden Christian High School at the time, felt the ball rebound off his skull, he immediately realized the ball was over-inflated, making it as hard as a rock.

Minutes later, he had to head it again. And again.

He asked a teammate to take the next one. But, as luck would have it, they kept coming to Kroontje. After the game, with his head spinning, he knew something was wrong.

A trip to the doctor confirmed concussion No. 1 of Kroontje’s senior year.

Concussion No. 2 came two weeks later, delivered in the form of a ball to the back of the head while he was sitting out because of his first head injury. He struggled to regain his senses and then vomited.

Concussion No. 3 came, like clockwork, two weeks later at school, as Kroontje backed into a glass case while talking to a friend, shattering it. He didn’t know what to do, he said, so he just went to class.

Kroontje is one of the thousands of high school athletes who have suffered a concussion from sports or recreation-related injuries in the United States.

In 2009, the Center for Disease Control reported that unintentional blunt force was the second-largest cause of concussions or traumatic brain injuries, making up 15.5 percent of all reported cases. But while concussions can be a common occurrence in contact sports like football and soccer, the effects can often be hidden once the player steps off the field.

After three concussions in four weeks, Kroontje was suffering from headaches, occasional vomiting and would often get inexplicably tired. Not usually one to get emotional, he would start crying without warning.

And as time would soon show, it wouldn’t be his first bout with concussions.

From the field to everyday life

Stories like Kroontje’s are not uncommon.

They happen all too often in sports — a tackle gone wrong, the hollow “thunk” of a head as it hits another, a ball to the temple — and they can linger, sometimes unknown to the athlete, for much longer than a game.

Months after his first series of concussions, Kroontje was riding in the team van to a high school soccer game last spring, when a car behind them rear-ended the vehicle. His head and neck went forward and then snapped backward. At first, Kroontje said he felt fine.

“But the same thing happened to me when I got my other concussions,” he said. “A few minutes after the accident, tears just started coming out of my eyes.”

Although Kroontje said he wanted to play, the Lynden Christian trainer decided he had to sit out of the game.

Two days later, Kroontje was back playing on the field and a ball hit him in the head.

“Then that’s when I said to myself, ‘Yeah I’m kind of out for a while; I need to rest,’” he said.

Now, Kroontje has headaches more frequently and sometimes finds it hard to keep up with his day-to-day activities.

“Often times with friends or at school, I’ll just say ‘I want to go home now,’ because I just want to rest,” he said. “Especially after the car crash.”

Running or moving up and down will hurt his head. He often doesn’t drive at night because the headlights from oncoming traffic can cause pain as well.

At 18, Kroontje already is feeling the effects of multiple bumps to the brain. He is not alone, though.

From 2009 to 2010, the CDC reported 981 people ages 15-24 visited the emergency room for a traumatic brain injury.

From the sidelines, struggling to keep children safe

While athletes have to battle with the effects of concussions, parents are often forgotten in the struggle.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Lesa Kroontje said when asked about her son’s concussions. “It’s not like you can see if a concussion is getting better or worse. Liam would go for a while without reporting any symptoms at all, and we’d think he was getting better. And then all of a sudden he’d have a relapse of symptoms.”

Kroontje said the hardest part was deciding how much activity her son should engage in after his concussions.

“You feel like you may be a bad parent if you do allow your child to play sports if they are concussion prone,” she said.

But she also knew how much her son loved the sport he’d played since kindergarten. Being safe and smart in every decision, she said, is key to keeping him safe.

The doctor’s view

In Kroontje’s experiences, a visit to the doctor provided little comfort — or answers.

Brian Weeda, who works at Performance PT — a Bellingham-based physical therapy rehab center — emphasized the usage of more than just the traditional tests.

“It may not just be we take them in and put them in a room and have them work on balance, but we introduce multiple stimuli and have them work on it from that surface in the recovery process,” Weeda said.

A 2015 study done by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine shows that athlete’s answers can also often be affected by their motivation to return to the field. According to the findings, “athletes experience an increase in motivation post-concussion, and that high motivation at baseline improves their performance on neurocognitive tests,” leading to results that may mask the true problem.

Wayne Sebastianelli, the director of Athletic Medicine at Penn Sate University, admits that the tests are less than perfect.

“It’s the best we have and it’s a good screen, but there are people who are gifted in their ability to do these sort of things,” he said.

These people can pass a test that would normally detect a head injury and head back onto the field with a possible concussion, unbeknownst to coaches and possibly even the player him or herself.

Instead, Kroontje and his family found more answers from a doctor that focused on the long-term effects of concussions as opposed to the short-term goal of getting players back on the field.

“That doctor explained that a player is never really cleared,” Lesa Kroontje said. “You can be symptom-free for a couple of years, but there can be a recurrence of symptoms.”

According to the Sports Concussion Institute, after someone has received a concussion, they are one to two times more likely to receive a second, and after a second, a third concussion is two to four times more likely.

Additionally, a study published in the International Review of Psychiatry stated that post-concussion symptoms, such as headaches or increased memory problems could last from months to even years. However, the study found that people who were educated about their symptoms following their injury had less post-concussion symptoms and were able to manage the symptoms that did show better than those who weren’t educated.

While many factors that play into concussion recovery can be ambiguous or unique to each individual, what the medical community seems to agree upon is a need for more research, said Dr. Amaal Starling, who specializes in neurology at the Mayo Clinic based in Arizona.

“It’s still quite limited,” Starling said. “The medical community is definitely changing that; we’re actively very involved in lots of research, and having conferences.”

Starling added that an availability of strong medical evidence will help doctors and athletes make better decisions about concussion care.

For now, Liam Kroontje is taking a break from his post at center defense.

This fall he will head across the border from his home in Lynden to study business at Trinity Western in Langley, B.C. He won’t be playing soccer, because he said he wants to focus on his studies and because of his concussions, which could become increasingly dangerous at the more-aggressive college level.

For Kroontje, it may have started with a header, but it won’t end with one.

Additional reporting by Reed Strong




Concussions reported in 2012, double what was reported in 2002.


Percent of sports-related concussions happen at practice.


Percent of all sports-related concussions occur during high school football.


Percent (one in five) of high school athletes will sustain a sports-related concussion during the season.


Percent of high school athletes who have a sports-related concussion report two or more in the same year.


Percent of most diagnosed concussions do not involve a loss of conciousness.



Amercians live with a traumatic brain injury-related injury, the Center for Disease Control estimates.

SOURCE: headcasecompany.com


The amount of sports concussion taking placer per 100,000 athletic exposures. An athletic exposure is one athlete participating in one organzied high school athletic practice or competition, regardless of the amount of time played:

Sport Rate
Football 64-76.8
Boys’ hockey 54
Girls’ soccer 33
Boys’ lacrosse 40-46.6
Girls’ lacrosse 31-35
Boys’ soccer 19-19.2
Girls’ basketball 18.6-21
Softball 16-16.3
Boys’ basketball 16-21.2
Cheerleading 11.5-14
Volleyball 6-8.6
Baseball 4.6-5
Gymnastics 7

Source: Heath, Katie. “Local Athletes Find out the Dangers of Concussions the Hard Way.” Bellinghamherald. N.p., 22 Aug. 2015. Web. 22 Aug. 2015.

Concussion concerns for student athletes


Concerns about student athletes suffering concussions is a hot topic among districts this football season. This after Barrow Neurological Institute concussion experts now say increased awareness of the dangers of concussions will likely mean an uptick in concussions reported this season in all levels of high school football.

10 football players suffered concussions last season at Phoenix Central High School. It can be a very scary situation and one about which officials says districts statewide are educated. Athletic directors in several Valley districts says they have been proactive about concussion concerns for years.

In Gilbert, Perry High School athletic trainer Rebecca Goetz says the district takes extensive steps to help recognize and prevent head injuries. The department is well versed and prepared to handle such cases she says and it begins even before the season begins. It’s called baseline testing and it helps to interpret post-injury scores. “It just tells us how their brain works naturally so if they get hit in the head, we know what they’re capable of doing neuro-cognitively in the classroom,” said Goetz.

Computerized testing, along with equipment standards help keep the number of injuries fairly low. “We make sure our helmets are properly taken care of, we recondition them every year,” said Perry athletics equipment manager Derwin Coleman. He says every athlete goes through a helmet fitting and it’s specific to each skull. Even so, nearly a dozen football players at Perry suffered concussions last season.

At the Phoenix Union High School District, athletic director Dr. Zack Munoz says roughly 30 athletes in all sports at Phoenix Union suffered concussions last year, and is optimistic with education and training the numbers won’t increase this year. “We don’t anticipate higher numbers. It’s been pretty flat line but it’s important to make students and parents aware of what the risks are.”

Athletic officials say recognizing the signs and symptoms are key.

Source: Barry, Ashleigh. “Concussion Concerns for Student Athletes.” – CBS 5. N.p., 20 Aug. 2015. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.

Clinics teach, preach safety to coaches


Ken Stoldt traveled from his Buffalo-area home to the eastern side of upstate New York for a couple of lightly attended youth-football clinics. That included a Sunday session at Christian Brothers Academy which had just four participants.

The low turnout was just fine with him — the big-picture signs are what matter. And he likes what is being seen nationally through Heads Up Football player safety clinics.

“A fundamentally sound player is a safer player,” Stoldt said after a six-hour clinic that was actually a makeup session which didn’t include any local coaches. “Over the last three years — concussions and injuries are down across the country. Participation is on the rise again, which is a good thing.”

Stoldt carries the title of master trainer for USA Football, a nonprofit that is the sport’s Indiana-based national governing body. The former high school coach of 20 years now travels the state, preaching the words of a 13-year-old organization which features a significant amount of backing from the NFL and is geared toward pre-high school football. (Albany’s Pop Warner League website, for kids 5-15, includes links to various USA Football pages.)

Stoldt spoke of heat and hydration, as teams are getting into late-summer practices, and also how to handle cardiac arrest.

Of course, the big topic these days is avoiding concussions — a process Stoldt says requires use of proper techniques and the elimination of what he considers to be worn-out myths.

After taking in the clinic, Ralph Falloon, who coaches high school ball in Cold Spring (near Poughkeepsie) said he’s impressed at how much “time and money and effort, is spent to properly train coaches and students.” He adds that so much contact just takes place on actual gamedays.

Stoldt said it’s not USA Football’s intention to take away the physical nature of the sport — but rather to preserve it in a more healthful way. That means drills designed to protect players’ heads and limit the amount of force taken.

The last 45 minutes of the clinic — with the coaches coming from the Poughkeepsie area and Utica — was spent behind the school going over drills. There were also classroom segments and PowerPoint presentations.

With bigger groups — Stoldt said he had 50 attend a session in Albany in the past — those on-field sessions can take about 90 minutes. This clinic lasted two hours less than usual.

Stoldt said he couldn’t estimate how many Section II high school coaches had been through a USA Football session this summer. It is not required. But youth leagues that want a USA Football endorsement must have a rep from each of its teams attend a day-long training session.

Stoldt says he also sees positive growth in his own sliced-down travel schedule: He’s only been out of the state once for a clinic during the past two summers, after heading to Connecticut, Vermont and Michigan before that. There are more quality instructors, he said.

It’s on the day campers to pass along pertinent information to their teams and parents.

Stoldt hopes the conversations help parents.

“Putting their minds at ease” of the game’s relative safety is important. Football, he says is still less concussive than soccer and cheerleading according to national statistics. He also attributes some of the fears to media coverage of the epidemic.

“We’re trying to put some of those myths to rest and let people know that, yes, even though we’re not the leading cause of concussions we’re the ones taking steps to prevent it,” he said.

Stoldt said another issue dissected this year is head-to-head contact along the line of scrimmage, in rush-block situations, which he says can cause as much head trauma as all-out tackling.

Parents tend to be concerned about helmet quality, but there’s a lot more to concussions and prevention than gear.

He spent the day discussing code words like “buzz” (getting feet under control before making a tackle) and “breakdown” (a fundamental starting position).

Stoldt loaded up his truck with equipment and manuals for the final time, headed home to put on his next hat: Section VI football chairman.

“It’s been another good summer,” he said.

Source: Franchuk, Jason. “Clinics Teach, Preach Safety to Coaches.” Times Union. N.p., 17 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Aug. 2015.