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Concussions: Short-Term Play Lost for Long-Term Gain

Milford's new concussion policy has been in effect for six months. How has it panned out for protection?

More than 62,000 concussions are sustained each year in U.S. high school contact sports and the likelihood of suffering a concussion while playing a contact sport is estimated to be as high as 19 percent for each year of play, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Concussions in high school sports are rising at about a 15 percent (and up to 27 percent) annual rate, according to a study published in 2011 by the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Twelve of the top contact sports were studied, finding football topped the list with the highest rates. Girls soccer was a distant second.

Sure, some of this might be in reporting, or due to new Massachusetts regulations, but this is still a shocking rise.

Concussions are caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head which changes the way your brain normally works. Typically occuring from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.

There are short-term symptoms of concussions, including headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Long-term symptoms include memory loss, Parkinson’s and dementia. This video reviews the way a concussion occurs and some of the post-concussion symptoms.

This past March, Milford initiated a tight concussion policy after a very public 4-1 vote. Many, including myself, were worried that reporting of concussion symptoms would decrease. According to John Rascow, Milford High School athletic trainer, each season has an average of 10 reported concussions. The new policy, he said, has not shown an obvious increase in statistics, or decrease in reporting of concussions.

Over the last two weeks, I have had friends and family whose children have had hits to the head with immediate symptoms of nausea, headache and visual changes. Some of these teens had immediate medical treatment and
were kept out of play for a week or more. Others didn’t report the symptoms to their coaches or parents. When questioned why they didn’t report the symptoms the student stated they didn’t think it was a big deal and another stated they didn’t want to be pulled out of play. 

In May of this year, a former Patriots linebacker opened up to NECN and ESPN about his repetitive head injuries and the physical repercussions. After I discussed this with parents of teen athletes, a few parents said they wouldn’t report minor symptoms out of fear for their child not playing as well. This inspired me to write this column as a vehicle to poll parents, students, school officials, coaches and town officials their thoughts on the policy put in place in March.

Have you experienced a concussion in the past, and continued to play, but in hindsight wish this policy was in place? Have you experienced a concussion with longer term side effects you wish to share with Patch readers? Would you report minor symptoms? (or has someone in your family chosen not to report an injury?) Do you feel this new policy is good practice, or too strict?

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