According to head Appalachian State athletic trainer Jon Mitchell, 30-60 concussions happen every year to student athletes at the university.
“Our data shows that all sports could potentially be at risk to suffer from the symptoms of a concussion/MTBI” Mitchell said in an interview.
And the data is not lying. I gave 18 student-athletes an anonymous survey about concussions. About 61 percent of them said they had sustained a concussion at some point during their athletic career.
Even more interesting, 22 percent of those who had concussions, said they had had 4 or more.
When asked about what was affected the most for them because of their concussion(s), most answered getting behind in school work with lower mental health being a close second.
Former Appalachian State women’s soccer player Kass Alvarez shares her story of the time she suffered a concussion during practice.
Alvarez describes how the team was playing a game where the girls were trying to head balls coming in from different corners into the net to score goals.
“So for one round, I was expecting the ball to come from one corner when it was really coming from a different corner, and I got hit on the side of my head pretty hard” Alvarez recalls with a laugh.
The concussion was no laughing matter, however, as it affected her school work and concentration while she was recovering. She also was unable to be around bright lights during that time.
Another former college athlete, Adam Kirkman, tells the story of the time he sustained a concussion during his 2016 baseball season.
“I was covering home plate after a pass ball and got taken out by the runner coming home” Kirkman explains during his interview.
Kirkman, like Alvarez, mentions how difficult it was to keep on track with school work. He struggled to focus in the coming weeks after his concussion.
Kirkman was back to baseball in a week and half, but still felt effects for a while after.
He struggled to look at the bright light of his phone and struggled to get through his classes.
Concussions are clearly common occurrence with student-athletes but what are they really defined as? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a concussion is “a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or to the body that cause the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.”
Universities such as Appalachian State have mandatory concussion testing before the season starts.
This testing is done on a computer and gives a baseline score to go off of. There are patterns and words to memorize during the testing. If a student gets a concussion during season, the scores are compared to confirm a concussion.
It is not a foolproof system by any means, and people are still pushing for more concussion safety to be put in place.
I asked the same 18 student athletes above what they recommended schools do to help prevent concussions and this is one had to say:
“I think we need to realize there is a possibility for injuries and do what is possible to prevent it, within reason, but we can't just walk around in bubble wrap.”
Photo Credit: Adam Kirkman (Courtesy of Savanna Kirkman), Kass Alvarez (Courtesy of Alfredo Alvarez), Jon Mitchell (Courtesy of appstatesports.com)