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Returning to Play after a Brain Injury

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   September 25, 2011 18:27

High school athletes, kindergartners playing at recess and even junior high students practicing for a play or dance performance can get a concussion or other type of head injury.

Davis School Board members recently discussed a proposal that changes the way the district deals with head injuries.

Students who are injured will be pulled out of games or other activities and will not be allowed to return until they have medical clearance from their doctor. The injured student will also need clearance from school personnel, who will monitor that student's progress. Parents of all students participating in athletic activities will be required to read and sign the district's new policy.

Scott Zigich, risk manager for the school district, said reports of concussions always increase during the football and soccer seasons.

But it's not just athletes getting hurt.

Last year, five head injuries were reported during theater productions, he said.

"Four of them were due to props that were not properly balanced, then fell and hit a student," Zigich said.

The fifth one occurred when two students practicing for a dance performance ran into each other.

Every district is required by law and by the State Board of Education to have a head injury policy in place for students who participate in sports, physical education classes, recess, field days, elementary school activities or secondary school extra-curricular activities.

The rule approved in September by the State Office of Education encompasses more than what legislators required in a bill they passed in March.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, said, "The law doesn't require them to be that encompassing, but if they feel they need it, OK."

Before action by the legislature and the state office, districts were not required to have a head-injury policy in place.

Ray, who is also a boys basketball coach at Sunset Junior High School, said he sponsored the bill because "concussions are a major issue in sports."

Concussions or head injuries have become such an issue that the National Football League has instituted a strict policy governing when a player can return to the field after receiving a blow to the head, Ray said.

Dr. Garrett Emery, emergency physician at Davis Hospital and Medical Center, said weekends are busy in the emergency room during the football and soccer seasons.

But emergency personnel also see at least two children every day who have fallen from playground equipment, a bicycle, or in their homes and have some type of brain injury, including a concussion.

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury, caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull.

Emery said too often parents and caretakers think a child's eyes will show signs of concussion.

"That's a myth," Emery said. "If they're conscious, don't look at their pupils."

Emery said it is also normal for someone who has a concussion to be sleepy.

The time to get worried is when the person won't wake up, he said. That is why medical personnel tell parents to wake their child every two hours if a head injury is suspected.

Dr. Joyce Soprano, with the University of Utah Medical Center and Primary Children's Medical Center, said the headaches and other symptoms that accompany a concussion clear up within seven to 10 days. The only cure for a concussion is rest, which includes physical rest and cognitive, or no thinking, rest.

A CAT scan will not show any injury to the brain from a concussion because the injury is a "functional problem," Soprano said.

But if a child doesn't get the proper rest and receives a second concussion within a short period of time after the first, severe complications, like brain swelling or death, could occur.

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