Concussions… A Heady Subject

Emily Nilsson

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    Concussions have been gaining substantial amounts of press lately, as their impacts have recently become a very large societal issue. However, at Glenwood Springs High School (GSHS), concussion rates are not actually a huge problem.  

    At GSHS, there is no real “normal” or average amount of concussions, as it varies from year to year. GSHS Head Certified Athletic Trainer, Marni Barton, was quick to confirm that, “It’s year to year dependent,” and there are many different factors that play into concussion rates such as training, athleticism, accident proneness, and body awareness of the athletes. These are all such large factors, that it is very difficult to determine a “norm” for anything relating to concussion rates.

    However, there are certainly some sports that produce more concussions than others, and even some seasons as a whole, that yield more concussions than others.

    The sports season with the highest concussion rates among student athletes at GSHS is the fall sports season.

    This is because, “There is a ripe combination of high risk sports all at one time,” according to Barton.

    Barton says that these “high-risk sports” include boys soccer, football and cheer, which drive the concussion rates up in the fall season.

    Barton estimates an average of 8-10 concussions per year, although she can’t put an exact number on it.

    While this may seem high, it is not necessarily the case because, “We’re never going to 100 percent prevent them [concussions],” according to Barton.

    Humans by nature are accident prone, and even without sports, there would still be concussions. There are however, preventative measures that can be taken to reduce the number of concussions we see among high school athletes.

    Although these measures are slightly different for every sport, there are some constants that should always be applied in order to help reduce concussion risks among high school athletes.         


    According to Barton, “Strength training plays a big role… and we’re really looking at protective gear, and there are always ways we can do things better.”


    If these measures are properly taken, there could be a decline in concussion rates among high school athletes.

    However, none of these measures will fully do their job unless the student athlete is willing to do everything they can to stay safe.

    Barton says, “A lot of it is going to come down to the athlete buy-in.”

    The students ultimately make the decision to keep themselves safe or not, regardless of equipment and training. They decide whether or not they will follow the rules and protect themselves. They are able to make a snap-decision on how they will perform, and whether or not they will keep themselves safe. If the athlete doesn’t follow the rules or perform in a safe way, they will not be safe and may end up with a concussion or other injuries.

   At GSHS, we seem to have a relatively self-aware student athlete population, as shown by the relatively low amount of concussions per school year.

    Our school sees only about 8-10 concussions a year when the United States average is, “1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season,” according to HeadCase.

    It seems that our students know what they need to do in order to keep themselves safe, and they do it, leading to less concussions at GSHS.

    Another area we have improved on is awareness. There has been increased consciousness among parents and students at GSHS, helping lead to easier diagnosis. Therefore, students are more mindful of the symptoms they will experience if concussed, and will more likely report it in order to get healthy faster.

    There are many possible symptoms to concussions, and they are different for everyone. Some common symptoms include headache, mental fogginess, difficulty remembering, sensitivity to light or sound, and many others.

    If a student athlete suspects they have a concussion at GSHS, they go to Barton, where they then take the IMPACT test (a neurocognitive test to assist in helping diagnose concussions) to assess their symptoms and test for concussion. If the athlete has a confirmed concussion, Barton sends an email to the student’s teachers, informing them of the concussion. She also attaches a list of the major symptoms the athlete is experiencing, and some ways to deal with them. These include adjustments on due dates for projects, extensions or postponements for significant tests, eye protection (such as sunglasses), ear protection (such as earplugs or headphones) and many other solutions to help the athlete heal as quickly and safely as possible.

    It is incredibly important to have a student athlete get tested if they are experiencing symptoms of a concussion because if an athlete plays with a concussion, the effects are going to be more detrimental leading to increased injury to their brain. Luckily, at GSHS, concussions are diagnosed  very well, leading to less chance for further brain injury. This allows students to heal better and more quickly, leading to less damage done to the student athletes. If played with, a concussion can lead to serious brain damage, which is why it is critical we allow adequate rest for the concussed player(s).

    Because GSHS is so conscious of concussions and their effects on student athletes, much action is taken which leads to surprisingly low concussion rates among student athletes at GSHS.

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