Sports concussions take toll on players

Gino Pazzaglia in actionThe clock was winding down in the Shoe Game. Sophomore quarterback Connor Marden spotted his receiver, junior Thomas Spanos. He let the ball fly and increased the  Padre score by another six points.

After ­­the play, senior offensive lineman Gino Pazzaglia was running down the field to congratulate Spanos for the touchdown when he received a blow to the back of the head from a Pacific Grove defensive player. Pazzaglia subsequently joined the long list of high school athletes who have experienced concussions.

“I felt so dizzy,” Pazzaglia says. “I tried to get up. I stumbled and fell back to the ground. My head was spinning, and all the noise from the band and crowd seemed to fade away.”

“Diagnosing a concussion can be pretty tricky,” Sports Medicine teacher Matt Borek says. “You’re looking for the most common symptoms: dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, ringing in the ears, confusion, disorientation and memory loss.”

Borek’s concussion check is part of the concussion regulations set by the California Interscholastic Federation, an organization dedicated to the safety of high school athletes and to helping fight the battle against concussions among young athletes.

According to momsTEAM, an informative website for parents whose children play sports, there are between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States every year. These startling numbers have caused the Centers for Disease Control to conclude that sports concussions have reached an “epidemic level.”

CHS sophomore Andres Enriquez has suffered from four concussions since he began playing football in middle school.

“I have received four concussions from football alone,” Enriquez says. “I was out of football for about a week after each of them.”

One of the CIF’s main goals is preventing a severe condition called Second Impact Syndrome caused by multiple blows to the head.

“If you return to play immediately after sustaining your first concussion, and receive further head trauma, you can develop Second Impact Syndrome, which has a 50 percent mortality rate,” Borek says.

Senior lacrosse player River Hain received two concussions in the same game, and in turn developed Second Impact Syndrome.

“I have no memory of the second hit or how it even happened,” Hain says. “I couldn’t resume any sort of contact sport for four months due to the Second Impact Syndrome.”

Returning to the game after receiving a concussion is not up to the player, but rather the coaches.

According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, a study of American high school and college football players demonstrated 94 catastrophic head injuries—significant intracranial bleeding or edema—over a 13-year period. Seventy-one percent of high school players suffering such injuries had a previous concussion in the same season with 39 percent playing with residual symptoms.

Both Hain and Enriquez suffer from lasting effects of their concussions.

“I get headaches frequently which get really irritating,” Enriquez says.

“My effects lasted an extremely long time,” Hain says. “I am not sure if I still have any. I struggle with trying to remember things, and it’s certainly made life more difficult.”

In order to educate the general public on the dangers of concussions, “CIF, the National Federation of State High School Associations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have teamed up to provide information and resources to help educate coaches, officials, parents and students on the importance of proper concussion recognition and management in high school sports.”

Online videos from the CIF stress the importance of appropriately dealing with a concussion and preserving the safety of all high school athletes.

While it is impossible to completely eradicate concussions in high school sports, Borek says Padre Parents is trying to prevent the frequency of Second Impact Syndrome by purchasing concussion-management software called Impact. The program will inform trainers and coaches whether athletes are still suffering from concussions by comparing memory recollection before and after the injury.

Carmel High, CIF and countless other organizations are taking a stand for athlete safety by providing educational courses and information about treating and recognizing concussions.

-Colette Hamwey