KOTA News EXTRA: Handling concussion risks in football - KOTA Territory News

KOTA News EXTRA: Handling concussion risks in football

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The state high school football playoffs bring in the biggest hits and some of those lead to concussions.

"A person that has suffered a concussion, if they go back to performing, there is a higher incidence of repeat concussion within 10 days," said Dr. Romer Mosquera, a neurologist at Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gillette.

Kris Johnson is a senior at Big Horn High School and plays on the offensive and defensive lines for the Rams. He says he doesn't think he's ever had a concussion, but he's seen the effects on teammates.

"They just look like they're dizzy and they kind of shut their eyes I guess and they don't really act like themselves," said Johnson.

"There could be loss of consciousness or not. There is usually imbalance, incoordination," said Mosquera.

"We've had four kids miss football games this year because of concussions. One was out about a week-and-a-half, and the others missed almost two weeks," said Rams head coach Michael McGuire.

Dr. Mosquera says a concussion occurs when the brain shifts inside the skull and multiple concussions increase the risk for long-term problems, like Alzheimer's and dementia.

"Persons that suffer multiple head concussions have a higher tendency to have long-term neurologist problems, including memory problems, sleep problems, behavioral problems," said Mosquera.

Earlier this year the American Academy of Neurology changed its recommendations for treating concussions.

"If there is evidence of head concussion, the player has to come out of the game, regardless of how well they feel afterwards," said Mosquera.

That is also a Wyoming High School Athletic Association rule.

The problem is an Institute of Medicine and National Research Council report shows there is still a "culture of resistance," and players don't want to come out of the game so coaches and trainers have to watch for it.

"We do our very best to just make sure that they go through the tests and things like that we give them. And then even sometimes if they pass those, if they don't seem quite right, then we're real careful about putting them back in," said McGuire.

McGuire says Sheridan County School District #1 requires coaches to take tests every year on concussions, and that was in place before a 2011 state law passed recommending each district develop protocols. Unlike most states, Wyoming's law doesn't require a player's removal from a game or practice if a concussion is suspected. But lawmakers contend since the law passed, coaches and parents are more educated on the topic.

"The health of the engaged student is always a priority, so yeah, I have confidence that has taken place," said Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan.

Now coaches are changing the way they coach and players are changing the way they play.

"We really stress the proper way to tackle with your head up. Don't lead with your head," said McGuire.

"Now we've been taught techniques and stuff, keep your head up and bend at your waist and stuff like that instead of just looking down and trying to hit him," said Johnson.

South Dakota lawmakers passed their own concussions law in 2011 that requires parents and players to review an injury information sheet. Any player suspected of having a concussion must get removed from the game and given written clearance by a licensed health care provider before returning to play.

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