Dominican Athletics Strive For Concussion Safety

December 1, 2015

By Christopher Sich

According to CNN, five high school student-athletes died this school year from head injuries while playing football. The most recent death was a 17-year-old Chicago high school football player. Although Dominican doesn’t have a football team, concussions are still an issue.

The NCAA reports that roughly 46 percent of concussions nationwide were suffered by individuals playing soccer, basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball, all of which are sports offered at Dominican.

All Dominican student-athletes work tirelessly on and off the field, which makes them susceptible to such injuries. To promote player safety, all athletes are educated on concussions.

Athletic trainer Erica Hedges takes concussion risks very seriously.

“Before participation in a sport, student-athletes are given a computerized impact test, which serves as their baseline in case of a concussion,” said Hedges.

The computerized impact test measures players’ symptoms, verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time.

“I have seen the same video several times, but I think it is important to watch,” said senior Kristina Antol. “It is a reminder of how important it is to know your body and to put your health first.”

When athletes suffer a concussion they have to follow specific guidelines, the first step being sideline recognition.

If a Dominican athlete is suspected of suffering a concussion during a practice or game, the player is then taken out and asked a series of questions. If one of the most common symptoms, dizziness, is displayed, the player is then held out for the remainder of the practice or game.

“Once an athlete is diagnosed, they are given memory and balance testing,” said Hedges. “We then follow up with them every day and we re-do the impact test to compare with their baseline.”

Hedges was unfortunate enough to suffer a concussion.

“I took the impact test, failed and was then not able to work for two weeks,” said Hedges. “My experience gives me confidence in the fact that the impact test and protocol that is in place works and is reliable.”

After an athlete is diagnosed, the responsibility is in their hands.

“Student-athletes are urged to rest and avoid TV time and reading as well as school work,” said Robin Shinall, assistant director of health services. “Athletes must miss classes until they are free of symptoms.”

According to Shinall, the current goal is to educate professors on concussions.