Coaches learn about head injuries

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, August 5, 2010

The sight of a woozy football player used to be shrugged off as a minor injury.

No longer.

After recent studies showing the harmful long-term effects of repeated concussions, a string of serious brain injuries nationwide, and congressional hearings into the NFL’s handling of the issue, concussions have become a hot-button topic in all levels of athletics.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The Mississippi High School Activities Association earlier this summer passed a rule requiring any player showing symptoms of a concussion to sit out until they are fully recovered. Members of the MHSAA’s Medical Advisory Committee are also making the rounds before the school year starts to further raise awareness of the issue and emphasize the new rule.

Wednesday, the coaches of the Vicksburg Warren School District took their turn listening to the sermon. Marc Osborne, an athletic trainer and member of the Medical Advisory Committee, spoke to the coaches during their annual teachers’ meetings about the dangers of concussions and how to handle players who suffer them.

“It’s something we wanted to do and get this education out to the coaches,” Osborne said. “We educate them. We have done this at the MHSAA, some educational things at the Mississippi Association of Coaches symposium, and in some cases we’re going school to school.”

The new MHSAA rule requires “any athlete who displays symptoms of a concussion in practice or a game setting to be removed immediately.” The athlete is then not allowed to return until they are cleared by a licensed physician following a full recovery — typically a period of one to two weeks.

For football, that can mean missing a significant chunk of the season, especially if symptoms linger. In past decades, some coaches would shake off such injuries as being “dinged up” and rush players back into action. Vicksburg Warren athletic director Lum Wright said the research of the past few years has started to change that thinking.

“There’s more information coming out now. The more information we have, the better we can get at it,” Wright said. “Information and studies have changed it. If you don’t have common sense to change, you’re going to put yourself in a bad situation. What’s happened over the years is we’ve always asked the kid, ‘Are you all right?’ They may not be all right.”

The decision whether to put a possibly-concussed player back into action is a heavy one for coaches. Doing so puts the player at risk for a more severe injury the next time they’re involved in contact. Vicksburg High defensive coordinator Tim Hughes said the decision should be made by an athletic trainer, but for Warren County’s schools that’s not always possible. River Region provides the school district with one trainer to cover both Vicksburg High and Warren Central.

“What’s tough is when your mind is focused on what your inside linebacker or your mike linebacker is doing, and somebody comes up and says, ‘I’m dizzy.’ You’re not ignoring the kid. But that’s when you need to say, ‘Hey doc,’” Hughes said. “It’s difficult because you have something to focus on. But when it’s all said and done, that kid is what we’re there for.”