With Will Smith popping up on your television almost twice a day, I am sure you are aware of the rising concern of concussions in sports.
Recent incidents around the country have forced the NCAA and other organizations to take a strong approach towards the protocols when dealing with a concussed athlete. Some of those same protocols have been followed carefully by Missouri Western.
Blaise Kriley is going into his third year as the head athletic trainer at Western. He noted that, since the topic is becoming more popular, more people are starting to be more aware of seriousness and the symptoms of concussions.
“If you remember, back in 2011-2012, that’s when the big NFL case came out with the concussions,” Kriley said. “The awareness about concussions became much more apparent, and I think it has risen due to education.”
Yearly, Kriley and his staff work with over a dozen incidents involving concussions with athletes. Since Kriley has arrived, that count has been pretty steady over the years.
“Each year we deal with 15-20 concussions,” Kriley said. “And for this year, we are kind of going on that same pace.”
There are normally trainers around at the different sporting events going on around campus. According to Kriley, it is their job to identify athletes with concussion symptoms and proceed with the protocols immediately.
“Basically, if we suspect that someone has a concussion, we evaluate them,” Kriley said. “If it is during practice or during a game, we immediately remove them from activity, then we do the evaluation.”
After being removed from activity, a series of tests are ran on the athlete by a physician.
“They then start what we call our concussion protocol,” Kriley said. “Which is when they see our team physician and they do what we call the IMPACT test, which is a neurocognitive test that helps measure brain functions.”
After that, the athlete is then shut down from activity to allow time to heal from the incident.
“They go into a period of rest and once they are symptom free, then they can start a return to play protocol,” Kriley said. “Which is just a progressive day-by-day exercise regimen that they do to work back into full activity.”
This same protocol is used for athletes on campus, from the football team to the cheerleading squad.
“It does not matter if you are a cheerleader, a golfer, a football player or a basketball player,” Kriley said. “We treat all concussion incidents the same.”
The NCAA also has a hand in how the concussion protocols and history of the incidents are handled.
“We have to have a concussion protocol on file,” Kriley said. “It’s like a plan that is on file so everyone knows what we have to do. We also have to do education on concussions. So, every student athlete that comes here, they watch a team video in their team meetings. It goes over signs and symptoms and a broad return to play protocol.”
Some notable concussion incidents so far have been suffered by two of the Griffons quarterbacks. Both Skyler Windmiller and TJ Lafaver split time this past season when the other could not play due to concussions.
Football was not the only sport were a notable concussion incident occurred. For a period of time, volleyball was without one of their All-MIAA performers in Jessie Thorup, due to concussions.
Coach Marian Carbin feels that although volleyball is not seen as physical as football, some of the same symptoms apply.
“I think the symptoms are similar,” Carbin said. “We actually had two concussions this year, and I think that some of the symptoms can get really severe. We have players that get nauseous, especially when they hit the floor or get hit by the ball.”
Carbin noted that the after-effect problems can also be a challenge to deal with.
“They have to be in environments that are low-stimulating,” Carbin said. “Where they just sit in their rooms normally. For our players coming back, just the noises in the gym are sometimes hard to deal with.”
Concussions are an issue that is rapidly growing onto the public conscious and there are many accusations of wrongdoing in different levels of sport, but it is safe to say that Western takes the problem seriously and handles occurrences as such.