The Children’s Hospital Colorado outlines symptoms parents, coaches and teachers should be aware of in case of a concussion:
• A headache that gets worse, lasts a long time or is severe
• Confusion, extreme sleepiness or trouble waking up
• Vomiting three or more times
• Trouble walking or talking
• A seizure (arms or legs stiffen or shake uncontrollably)
• Any other sudden change in thinking or behavior
In September 2004, Jake Snakenberg, a freshman at Grandview High School in Aurora, was injured during a football game.
He seemed to be OK.
The next week, Snakenberg took the field again, unaware of what was going on inside his own body.
The fullback took a hit during the game, stood up, wobbled and went down again.
Snakenberg never regained consciousness and died the next day from complications of Second Impact Syndrome after doctors said his previous injury was likely a concussion.
“Concussions happen more than we realize,” said Jeff Pleasant, a certified athletic trainer at Rehabilitation Services of Craig. “An athlete may have suffered a concussion and seem good enough to go back in and no one realizes. Concussions can hide and not be reported, and only the athlete may know anything was wrong in the first place.”
In March of this year, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Colorado’s Senate Bill 40 into law, otherwise known as the Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act.
The bill, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2012, requires all athletic coaches at private and public middle schools, junior high schools or high schools, as well as volunteer coaches for recreational facilities, to take a concussion recognition education course.
Furthermore, coaches who have taken the course must immediately remove an athlete from competition or practice if a suspected blow to the body or head may have caused a concussion.
The athlete must receive written clearance from a health care professional to return to competition or practice.
“Having this bill is great because it will allow coaches, parents and academic administrators to recognize the signs and know what to do,” Pleasant said. “The earlier we know, the better because then we know where to go and what action to pursue.”
According to the Brain Injury Association of Colorado, between 1,500 to 2,500 youth athletes seek medical treatment for sports-related concussions each year.
In the Concussion Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, the number of patients treated for concussions has risen at an average rate of 32 percent each year for the past three years, according to the hospital’s website.
“The most important thing to do is to be able to identify a student or athlete has suffered a concussion,” Pleasant said. “Regardless of the age, if we can conjure up a plan early, we can safely return them to competition or the classroom easier.”
With help from the Rocky Mountain Youth Sports Medicine Institute and Karen McAvoy, who was a school psychologist at Grandview when Snakenberg was injured, Pleasant said the Moffat County School District will institute a plan to go alongside Senate Bill 40.
The REAP Project, which stands for Reduce, Educate, Accommodate and Pace, was developed by the institute, McAvoy, and fellow physicians Dr. John Polousky and Dr. Brooke Pengel.
The program involves four teams — family, school-physical, school-academic and medical — to help insure students and athletes who suffer concussions recover in the correct way.
“A dozen or so medical and school personnel here in Craig are using REAP to help develop a plan to make sure we all can manage concussions,” Pleasant said. “While the injury may occur during athletics, the people in the schools can help notice and watch for behavior and learning changes.”
Each coach in the school district will receive a packet to outline the program.
In the back of the packet is a symptom’s checklist that will start with the coach, be handed off to parents and school administrators, and finally presented to a medical professional when a student or athlete is examined.
“The parents know their kid’s personality, so it is important that they are part of this process,” Pleasant said. “If, from beginning until end, the checklist can be filled out whether a symptom seems important or not, it can help diagnose and treat a concussion.”
The program, Pleasant said, helps insure students and athletes who suffer from a concussion can slowly ease into academics and athletics at the right pace.
According to the REAP packet, more than 80 percent of concussions resolve successfully within the first three weeks post-injury if the right steps are taken.
“This is all because of Senate Bill 40,” Pleasant said. “We want to be able to recognize and manage injuries properly for all the youth.”
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