“I’ve gotten three concussions that I remember,” says Paxton Ataide, a senior and four-year varsity soccer player at CHS. “The worst one was during a soccer game, where I hit my head on a goalpost. I was going for a ball from a corner kick and a girl pushed me, and my head hit the goalpost, and I got a little whiplash with it.”
After her collision, Ataide began to experience abnormal symptoms.
“The next day, I woke up and my eyes were dilated,” Ataide remarks. “I was nauseous, and I threw up a bunch. I couldn’t really walk straight.”
It is of no debate that concussions are a serious and diagnosable injury. For student-athletes who play in contact sports, concussions are a constant danger, a danger that Carmel High School does not take lightly.
“If players are suspected of having an injury, they are treated the same as if they had an injury,” says athletic director and football coach Golden Anderson.
This safety measure is sorely needed in high school contact sports. According to a PBS study, it is estimated that high school football players suffer 11.2 concussions for every 10,000 games and practices, and this number is most likely conservative because many concussions go unreported.
Sports medicine instructor and athletic trainer Jay Christensen describes the typical way that Carmel High handles concussions.
“The first response is to remove the player from play,” the sports medicine teacher says. “If it is something that goes unreported, but someone like a coach or official tells me, the same logic and procedure applies. We then conduct a sideline evaluation, which typically includes all kinds of special tests like eye tracking, memory recall and visual and hearing abilities.”
Anderson comments on Carmel High’s seven-day policy stating an injured athlete must recuperate for a minimum of seven days before returning to his or her sport.
“It used to be seven days or a note from a doctor, but now the minimum return date is always seven days,” the athletic director explains. “After seven days of no symptoms, our return to play protocol begins with a trainer including a gradual increase of physical activity, and, as long as there are no symptoms, the athlete is cleared to play.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most concussions and other mild brain injuries cause symptoms of headaches and dizziness. However, long-term effects of brain injuries include more serious symptoms: difficulty concentrating and completing tasks, irritability and problems with short-term memory. These long-term effects are exactly what the seven-day policy is hoping to prevent.
Senior football player Hayden Stachelek explains his experience with concussions.
“I had two concussions my freshman year,” Stachelek says. “The first one was when we were kick returning, and I had a big hit. The second one was when I put my head down instead of tackling with my head up and knocked myself out.”
In order to recover from his injuries, Stachelek explains that Matthew Borek, the athletic trainer at the time, helped him slowly get back onto the field.
“It was a really good and safe protocol, and I felt ready to get back on the field once it was over,” Stachelek says.
Anderson points to the new concussion test program, the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test, ImPACT, offered to athletes for free and is approved and paid for by the school board.
“It is not a preventative measure for concussions, but it is definitely an accurate piece of data on return to play for concussions,” Anderson says.
Senior Ben Weber, who sustained a concussion during his spring baseball season, went to the concussion testing.
“They had me take several different tests, particularly memory tests,” Weber says. “It is built for all athletes even if they are not suspected to have a brain injury.”
Unlike Stachelek and Weber, many other people have not taken advantage of the concussion test including sophomore varsity soccer player Scotty Tracy.
“My most recent concussion was during soccer where I was tackled by a goalkeeper,” Tracy says. “I’ve had a total of five concussions from soccer and playing on the playground.”
Tracy admits he did not see a doctor after he sustained his concussion as he trusted the school sports medicine department to bring him back to health.
“I knew what was wrong with me, and I just went and saw Mr. Christensen,” Tracy says. “I haven’t done the concussion test, but I probably should.”
Junior Grace Lee is another athlete who has sustained one concussion during sports; however, she has had five concussions overall.
“When I got my concussion, Mr. Christensen took good care of me in a time that I really needed it,” Lee says. “The sports medicine department does a good job of taking care of their injured athletes.”
Carmel High says that it takes all injuries seriously. The athletic department recommends going to either school nurse Susan Pierszalowski or Christensen if a student has or suspects having an illness or injury.