Athletes, especially those who play contact sports, have always been vulnerable to concussion. Despite the increasing use of helmets and headgear, the risk of concussion remains, and if ignored or improperly treated, concussion can have adverse impacts that affect individuals’ lives.
Because medical research has revealed a need for coaches, trainers, parents and athletes to rethink practices for managing concussions, Calvert Memorial Hospital and the Wilson Ennis Clubhouse will offer a community presentation on sports-related concussion on Friday, July 15 from 6-9 p.m. at Wilson Ennis Club House in Huntingtown.
Dr. Harry Kerasidis, neurologist and medical director of the Center for Neuroscience at Calvert Memorial Hospital, will moderate the event. Kerasidis says, “I think there is a lot more awareness lately because of the presence in the media of new information regarding concussion injury and brain injury, especially as it’s related to sports. With that awareness, people start to recognize that somebody may not only have injured their brain during a sports event but also this is a more serious thing than what they used to call a ‘ding.’”
That’s exactly what happened to James “Dawson” Fielding, 14, of Dunkirk. Dawson was participating in a travel league soccer tournament game in Richmond, VA when he sustained what appeared to be a minor blow to the head. “I had this ringing in my ear,” said Dawson, who came out and stayed out of the game after being examined by a registered nurse, who just happened to be attending the game. At halftime, the nurse spoke with Dawson’s mother, Sue Fielding, and suggested a physician evaluate her son’s injury. “We talked to him after the game and he seemed fine--he wasn’t dizzy or nauseous or anything that would have alerted me there was a problem.”
The next week, during another game, Dawson took an elbow to the head. “I didn’t think that was an event to go to the doctor , either,” said Sue. However, when Dawson became lightheaded the next morning “a light bulb went off” and the Fieldings made an appointment with their family doctor. From there they were referred to Dr. Kerasidis at the CMH Neuroscience Center.
A neurocognitive test was performed, and, while Dawson felt he had done well in the mental and reflexive test, he had, in fact, done poorly. Sue said, “I wish we had known about this test and had a baseline reading. Then we would have had him evaluated after the first hit and not let him play the next game. We learned that there is a big risk of second concussion if there is not sufficient recovery from the first one. But we did a follow-up neurocognitive test every week and each time that score improved.”
Dawson admitted he was chomping at the bit to resume the athletic activities he loved. However, he needed to rest and recover. A good student, Dawson admitted he had had some problems concentrating in the classroom during his period of convalescence. “That was hard for him, not just to not do sports but to rest his brain,” said Sue. A month after his second injury, Dawson finally passed the test.
Kerasidis says, “In the past many people felt the loss of consciousness defined concussion when in fact only a small portion of people who have a concussion lose consciousness. Individuals may have the symptoms of concussion that are obvious. But there may also be consequences that are not so obvious— cognitive function is very sensitively affected by concussion injury. This is one of the reasons why the current, state-of-the-art medicine is to recommend cognitive and emotional testing for athletes before and after concussion. The advent of computerized exams that test these functions can tell you whether or not this individual is performing at a pace they really should be.”