Take concussions and head injuries seriously

Received this article today from my friend Angela. Those of you on the Discuss Fastpitch Forum know her as Angstoner. The article is from the New York Times, and it discusses how seriously the NFL is taking concussions and head injuries in general.

The reason I pass it along is that there are lessons in here for fastpitch softball coaches as well. The NFL has never been known for its abiding concern for its players. They are more of the “patch ’em up and get ’em back in there” school. There are lots of stories about players secretly receiving cortizone shots on the sidelines so they could return to an important game. So if the NFL is taking head injuries this seriously, the rest of us should too.

The problem with head injuries in general, and concussions in particular, are they are often difficult to diagnose. Here’s a little more information on concussions in case you want to learn more. Essentially, though, it’s not like a cut or a broken bone where the evidence is visible. There’s some judgment involved, and some questioning of the player unless the symptoms are severe.

Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer was put on injured reserve for the rest of the year due to a concussion he suffered in the third preseason game. He sat out game four I believe, then played a half in the first regular season game. Although he didn’t suffer a blow to the head in that game he started complaining of dizziness and being sick to his stomach. It was traced back to the concussion, and now his season is over.

That’s what’s tricky. A player may seem ok, and may tell you she’s ok when she’s really not. She herself may not realize how serious the injury is.

I experienced that this past summer. Our team was playing at the ASA Northern Nationals. We were playing for our lives and locked in a tight 1-1 contest. In the bottom of the fifth, with two outs, a ground ball was hit to short. Our shortstop went to field it, and the runner on second ran into her head-first. One of our other players saw her helmet contact our shortstop’s facemask. Our shortstop went to the ground immediately, and was down for about 5-10 minutes while we tended to her. She was in tears, too, which was unlike her. She finally was able to stand and we got her off the field.

When our half of the inning finished I had to make a decision. The shortstop said she was fine and could play, but I chose to keep her out. Just did not want to mess with a head injury. I don’t know if it made a difference, but the other team scored a few and we were eliminated. Still, I felt then and feel now it was the right thing to do. Especially after I checked with her mom a few days later and she said the girl was still a bit fuzzy at times.

It’s tough to make that decision, especially in a close game. You know any change might upset the apple cart. Better that, though, than risk a kid’s health over a stupid game. If the NFL is taking it seriously, the rest of us ought to as well.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on September 16, 2010, in General Thoughts, Health/safety. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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