Do you remember what happened? “I don’t remember getting hit,” states Ronelle McNeil, a senior and a football player at Hazelwood East High School in Hazelwood, MO. McNeil suffered a concussion.  Should athletes be allowed to return to a game before their brain has had adequate time to heal?

A football player is helped off the field. If he has a concussion, how soon should he return the game? Credit: Joseph Viltaile.

While playing sports, such as football, cheerleading, hockey, soccer, basketball, baseball, and softball, athletes may suffer a traumatic head injury such as a concussion. Concussions can occur when an athlete has both mild and severe blows to the head. “Each year, U.S. emergency departments treat an estimated 135,000 sports- and recreation-related [traumatic brain injuries], including concussions, among children ages 5 to 18,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During a concussion the brain moves violently within the skull. Brain cells from a concussion act similar to those of a seizure. “Athletes who suffer from a concussion tend to have brain cells such as those in a coma,” says WebMD.

When an athlete gets a concussion, school trainers tend to them the majority of the time.  According to Hazelwood East High School trainer Dave Wiedenger, five athletes have had a concussion this 2010–2011 school year. Wiedenger tells SciJourner that his treatment of a concussion isn’t any different than a doctor. “I get my guidelines from the same place as most sport doctors from the College of Sports Medicine; however most ER doctors and family physicians don’t know these guidelines.”

Trainers may look at the athlete and ask questions as of what had happen and what they are feeling like. Common signs of a concussion are confusion or dazed, slurred speech, nausea or vomiting, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, sensitivity to noise, sluggishness, memory loss, ringing in ears, and concentration difficulties, says the Mayo Clinic staff.

 When a trainer discovers that the athlete is suffering from a concussion they would have them avoid physical contact. But is avoiding physical contact for a couple of days enough time for your brain to heal? “They have to sit out seven days after their symptoms are gone,” says Wiedenger.”

The California Athletic Trainers’ Association (CATA) states that,“While a class may teach coaches and referees the common symptoms to look out for, it’s not always cut and dry. “Sometimes the signs of a concussion can be subtle or might not even appear immediately,” says Michael West, President of CATA. “In some cases an athlete might have received what looked like a glancing blow, but there’s still a chance of concussion—certified athletic trainers can spot these instances and act accordingly because we’re experts on concussions.”

McNeil tells Scijourner that his doctor recommended that he sit out for two weeks.

On April 19, 2011, the Illinois High School Association adopted a new policy that states, “In cases when an athlete is not cleared to return to play the same day as he/she is removed from a contest following a possible head injury (i.e., concussion), the athlete shall not return to play or practice until the athlete is evaluated by and receives written clearance from a licensed health care provider to return to play.”

How does a player having a concussion affect the team? “It affects the team mentally, because players are cautious about playing again,” says Hazelwood East High School Coach Brian Simmons. To prevent concussions, Simmons stresses that team members learn “the proper way of tackling.”

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  1. This article is very insightful and very well written.I think that athletes with a concussion should wait until their brain is completley healed to resume playing.

    • Robert, almost every sport can be classified as a "physical hitting" sport. This classification includes obvious "contact" sports such as american football, soccer or lacrosse, but even sports classified as "non-contact" or "limited contact" can lead to concussions, such as when a swimmer falls off the starting block, or a baseball player is hit with the ball. You can also get a head injury from a fall or a car accident. Any time the head is hit, a concussion is possible.

  2. I play a lot of sports and i have taken acouple hits. i dont think i have gotten a cuncussion but i will think about this article when i see a teamate suffering symptoms.

  3. Concussions are scary… one time i was driving a golf cart down a hill and my friend flew through the air and hit the ground extrememly hard.. i think she had a concussion but later she was fine..

  4. My friend once fell from an extension lift, and sort of dove forward to the ground. It was really scary and we thought she had a concussion. But she was fine later. You don’t hear many people mention cheerleading as a sport that could lead to a serious injury. When in fact it is actually very dangerous.

  5. I think that after a player does get an concussion if affects the players both mental and physical which the article says and I agree with it.