The fall sports seasons will kick off next month, but before any player even takes the field for the first practice, Bothwell Regional Health Center, the Missouri Orthopedic Institute and Sedalia School District 200 are teaming up to get the word out on the latest information about concussions and how to recognize and treat them.
Dr. Aaron Gray is a family and sports medicine physician with the Missouri Orthopedic Institute who will be in Sedalia for a symposium on concussions Friday at the Heckart Performing Arts Center. He said he hopes to get the word out to coaches and administrators about the latest practices in treating and identifying concussions.
Coaches from Smith-Cotton, all of the Kaysinger schools, all other surrounding schools and even Smith-Cotton’s West Central Conference rivals were invited to attend.
“This is not going to give any of us a competitive advantage, this is something that is good for all kids,” said Smith-Cotton athletic director Rob Davis. “We wanted to provide that opportunity to all of our friends in the area.”
Though often associated with football, concussions do occur in other sports, so Gray wanted to talk to coaches in other sports as well.
“If you look at concussion rates in high school sports, football has the highest, but girls soccer has the second highest,” Gray said. “It’s actually higher than boys soccer. We also see them in basketball and baseball.”
Gray did a family medicine residency at the University of Missouri before a sports medicine fellowship at UCLA. Now back at Missouri, as part of his sports medicine and family medicine practice, he treats pediatric and adult concussion cases.
“There’s definitely been an increased awareness of concussions among parents coaches and players,” Gray said. “I think a lot of that is due to increased awareness in the National Football League. Any time you get increased awareness in a professional league we see a trickle down effect. I think that’s been very positive that most people now realize that you don’t need to be knocked out to have a concussion. That was a commonly held myth previously.”
Gray said the usual treatment is rest, physically and mentally, but also visual rest.
“Often, getting over a concussion is one of the most boring things that an athlete does,” Gray said. “The one thing that I talk to all my teenagers about is they really need to be careful about using their cell phone too much or being on the computer too much or watching too much TV or video games. Often if you’re moving your eyes back and forth quickly and reading things, that can make those concussion symptoms come back and be worse. That can be the hardest things for teenagers to put down their phones for a few days.”
Gray said most people who suffer a concussion will recover within two or three weeks but some can see effects beyond that. Symptoms of a concussion can include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, feeling like your head is in a fog and memory loss.
When Sedalia 200 renegotiated the contract with Bothwell for training services this year, it looked into ways to further utilize Bothwell with its connection to the University of Missouri.
“This is one of the things we came up with to have our coaches and even nurses and administrators with this symposium to talk more in depth about concussions which is a hot-button topic these days,” Davis said.
Coaches already take an online course, which lasts about 30 minutes and goes over many of the basics of dealing with concussions, but Davis said this session will give coaches more information.
Gray stresses a gradual return to play with athletes easing into conditioning and later non-contact drills before participating in a full practice. He also wants coaches to take away just how serious any concussion can be.
“‘Getting your bell rung,’ that equals a concussion,” Gray said. “If you get hit and you’re feeling kind of dizzy or in a daze or out of it, that’s a concussion. Sometimes you’ll see on TV that someone has a mild concussion and I hate that term. All concussions are brain injuries and all brain injuries are serious. I don’t classify concussions as mild or moderate. All concussions are serious issues to me. The good thing is most will be better with rest but some take a few weeks to get better.”
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles