Awareness and information changing mindset on sports-related concussions

High School Sports

Concussions in youth sports have been a popular topic in recent years as more information is being gathered about the possible rammifications later in life.

“We’re getting a lot more information now. Concussions have always been there, but we just didn’t know enough about them,” said Pleasant Valley Athletic Trainer Jason Veil.

It’s taken years for knowledge about sports-related concussions to become mainstream, but awareness has now become more widespread than ever.

Jose Armendariz is an expert in sports-related concussions. He said a new way of thinking about head injuries has prioritized safety.

“It has evolved quite a bit and we no longer rub dirt in injuries or downplay a concussion,” said Armendariz, Genesis Health MD, CAQSM. “It’s getting a lot better through management protocols, but there’s still a lot of work to go, work to be done.”

Rock Island football coach Ben Hammer is on the forefront of the movement.

Hammer is certified as a master trainer in the USA Football Heads-Up Football Program, which is a philosophy that aims to make the game safer through different tackling techniques and less overall contact at practice.

“A concern to parents, a concern to people and even to the kids, was the safety of the game. In order to better protect and serve the communities and our game, something had to be done,” Hammer said. “It’s been an advantage for us because of the master trainer program that we’re trained to approach it in a safer way and to teach it in a way where parents are more comfortable.” 

But parents are just one part of the concussion discussion. Another is the old-school thinking about sports-related head injuries, according to Veil. 

“It’s trying to change that culture. ‘Okay, I didn’t just ring my bell, I do actually have an injury to my brain’,” Veil said. “Trying to get that importance of it’s an injury, just like when you sprain your ankle and tear a ligament in your knee those are injuries as well. This isn’t just one of those things you can just brush off.” 

Armendariz said the education must be a multi-pronged approach in order for it to be successful.

“It’s in the management and awareness where we’ve have really made the biggest strides,” Armendariz said. “Just educating everybody in their role from school teachers to coaches to the athletes directly. That way this injury doesn’t have to be frustrating.”

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