Concussing Our Kids, One Hit At a Time

While pro sports finally fess up to the dangers of high-impact athletics, trainers, coaches, parents and lawmakers struggle to curb head injuries that are even more dangerous for kids.

When she went to the nurse with a headache the next day, the nurse gave her aspirin. When her headache persisted, a doctor administered a run-of-the-mill CAT scan, which does not detect concussions. Nothing looked amiss, so she was cleared to return to the ice.

"I've been skating since I was four, at the pond near my house," explains Kayla. "It would've just felt weird not to play hockey."

Ten months later, at a high school team practice, Kayla was doing a drill she calls "mountain climbers," a sort of butt-in-the-air pushup on skates. Exhausted, her arms slipped, and her forehead smacked the ice. The rest of the team skated to the locker room, unaware that she lay crumpled in pain. It wasn't until the next team found her in the rink that Kayla's mom, Mandy Meyer, received a frantic call to come to the arena.

Natasha Helmick's athletic career effectively ended in the Lake Highlands Girls Classic League.
Mark Graham
Natasha Helmick's athletic career effectively ended in the Lake Highlands Girls Classic League.
Head injuries derailed Kayla Meyer's hockey career -- and her health.
Chuck Kajer
Head injuries derailed Kayla Meyer's hockey career -- and her health.

Kayla's head hurt so badly in the next couple of weeks that her bewildered parents called a plumber to check for carbon monoxide leaks in their house. Her coach's solution, according to Mom: "Put a helmet on her. Let her skate through it."

Meyer's head was too sensitive for her to even bear wearing a helmet. She hasn't played hockey since. A year and a half since that second concussion, she remains hobbled by excruciating headaches and a crippling intolerance to noise.

Kayla's ordeal illustrates a debate that's currently occurring in the medical community: How long should a concussed youth sit out before returning to athletic activities?

"Some people said ten days, others said three months," says Dr. William Jones, a staff physician at the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute in Houston, Texas, about a medical conference that he recently attended. Meanwhile, Ashley sits somewhere in the middle. "We really need to be thinking seriously about waiting at least 30 days until a person with a concussion returns to play."

It's all leading toward games that may be significantly altered in the future. Arizona has considered eliminating kickoffs from high-school football because of the dangers inherent when players collide with each other at top speeds. And while it's impossible to completely prevent head trauma in football, helmet manufacturer Riddell has, in the past 20 years, redesigned and released several types of helmets. This season, each varsity player for Houston-area football powerhouse Katy High School will don the pricey and brand-new Riddell Revolution Speed helmet, which costs anywhere from $236 to $1,030. The previous version, the Riddell Revolution, helped decrease concussions by more than 300 percent, according to Katy head athletic trainer Justin Landers.

Katy's football staff has the money to use ImPACT testing and state-of-the-art helmets. However, one thing Landers and his coaching staff can't control is the win-hungry culture of Texas high school football.

From early June to mid-July, with the hot Texas sun overhead, Katy players run sprints on an outdoor practice field and hit the weight room during a five-week summer fitness program. Around this time every year, several parents — who are desperate for their freshman enrollees to gain a competitive advantage — will call Landers to ask his advice on what type of helmet they should buy for their sons. Landers, the son of a helmet salesman, is freaked that these kids will go out on some random field with ill-fitting equipment and hurt themselves.

Landers is another athletic trainer who believes that the state's recently passed concussion legislation has its shortcomings and that "the judgment call on whether to pull a kid from play won't make the decision any easier," he says. "We would look foolish if we were to send a kid to the doctor and he didn't end up having a concussion. That would be a waste of time and money."

Four years ago, Landers told a varsity football player who had suffered a staggering three concussions in five months to go to the doctor toward the end of the regular season. The athlete, a key contributor to the Tigers' playoff push, was deemed unfit to continue playing football.

Though Landers realizes that the doctor's decision was probably the right call, he still feels like he screwed up.

"I still feel badly," says Landers through teary eyes, as if the incident had just happened yesterday, "because he'll never get to experience what it's like to play in a Texas [high school football] playoff game."


As parents, coaches and athletes try to find the proper balance between athletic participation and long-term health, Natasha Helmick, who's studying at Texas State University to be an athletic trainer, is still experiencing depression and focus issues.

Natasha says she still hasn't moved past the disappointment of that day when Texas State decided to pull her athletic scholarship. "My doctor told me that I should never play a contact sport again in my life. He said, 'Don't even go out and shoot with friends. That's how endangered your head is.'"

Natasha's brother Zachary plays club select soccer and has "moved up the soccer ladder faster than Natasha did," says their mother, Micky. This summer, Zachary participated in the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program. If he keeps performing well, he could be handpicked from a pool of athletes to represent the country in national and international competition.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
13 comments
Vitaldifferenceutah
Vitaldifferenceutah

Children being over prescribed with medication and still in chronic pain from sport injuries. I'm a Correctional Officer at the Utah prison system, whose son became addicted to drugs after an injury. He took everything from Oxycodone to Heroin. After searching the country for months for a program that did not us drug to get them off of drugs, I finally found it in Dallas.

The program eliminates the most severe cases of chronic pain with out the use of drugs.

Did you know that most drug addictions happen because of an injury? Did you know that more addicts are caused by prescription drug use first? Did you know that there are more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than from automobile accidents yearly?

The Physicians Institute 214-253-2375 / Victoria Richards CEO and founder direct line 404-918-9099

This technology also repairs fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and bi-polar disorder.

This technology is now in four countries

Please left people now about this technology, it has been a blessing to are family.

Terrycart
Terrycart

So, this article show us kids stop doing too much sports exercise. Is that right?

ron
ron

when you you stop this drivil enough is enough damn kids get hurt playing in the dirt soooo football is contact sports or we could say do the fluff dance but you might break a nail. so in my opinion shut the hell up already.

bb
bb

I don't understand why parents encourage their kids to play in contact sports where risk of concussions and other serious injuries is very high. With school budgets cut to the bone it seems, as usual, the college farm teams (high school sports) are rarely impacted. The cost of busing kids to sporting events, equipment, maintenance of sports facilities, coaching staffs etc. is money that could be spent educating students in preparation for going to college on academic merit, or entering the local workforce. A fraction of 1% of high school students playing sports actual go on to earn a living playing their sport(s). However, most if not all injured playing high school sports carry those injuries for the rest of their life.Yea, I know the arguments on childhood obesity and teaching discipline, but at what cost. Get back to basics of teaching PE (Physical Education) and calisthenics.The high-risk sports should be outsourced to leagues and associations outside the school system similar to the way sports are played in elementary school. (Pop Warner, Little League Baseball etc.)Junior high and high schools should get out of the farm team business.

Ronb77
Ronb77

leticia olalia morales of 15501 pasadena ave #8 tustin ca 92780 submitted fake documents and paid 5000 dollars to obtain a US tourist visa. she also submitted fake employment records to obtain a work visa. she is now applying for citizenship. her contact at the embassy was man named sandman.

Joe
Joe

my son plays football and I have him in a 300+ plus helmet. I get alot of crap because of it but guess what, those who put their kid in those sub 100 water coolers should not be allow to complain when then get their bell gets rung..or better yet..those should not be allowed out on the field. If you can pay to protect your kids head...get the f ck off the field...your child is more important.

CR
CR

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur each year. Out of this figure, about 235,000 are hospitalized and 50,000 die, according to the CDC."

What's sad is that after a certain age the majority of these young kids will grow out of these sports (as with alcohol and other drug abuse) but the damage can last a lifetime.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Do the Kids and Parents want to be stars and see stars ? Or not play at all ?

Their choice .

iblobar
iblobar

I think alot of these gung-ho coachs are to blame...mostly the football coachs. Refs have got to do a better job and throw out these agressive dogs that bite....

Roger
Roger

A freak accidental kick to the head derailed my daughters college volleyball career last season. She was not only out of sports, but out of school from last September until July when she went back for Summer 2 classes, she still has some ill affects from the concussion.

Mark Picot
Mark Picot

Concussions not only originate from head contact. Preliminary data supports the use of an orthotic oral appliance designed to prevent the boxers "Glass jaw". In cases of post orthodontics or where temporal mandibular joint dysfunction and concussion history exist, these corrective mouth guards offer more protection than common boil and bite or common custom made tooth protectors. Dr. Bill Burkhart, team dentist for the University of Texas is certified in the protocol to make these adaptive mouth guards.The U.S. Army is moving forward with a research initiative based on the date linked. www.mahercor.com

Study link peer reviewed by a Harvard MGH specialist

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu...

 
Loading...