You would have no idea that Julia LeBlanc has suffered from four concussions over the past four years. She is completely focused as she handles her lacrosse stick, running and juggling as she weaves her way down the turf. To the untrained eye, she would look completely healthy, but little do many know that LeBlanc, an AHS senior, will suffer from concussion symptoms for the rest of her life.
Concussions have increased in frequency at Andover High School. Twenty-seven concussions were reported to the school in the 2012-2013 school year, says Andover High School nurse Ms. Gibson. So far for the 2013-2014 school year, there have been 30 reported concussions, and three months still remain in the school year.
LeBlanc explains she still suffers from symptoms after the concussion she got in October 2013. This was her fourth head injury, and it took her about four months to return to sports after her injury. Studies have now shown that the more concussions a person has received, the longer the time for recovery will take. The more concussions you have also increases your risk for lifetime effects.
The Andover High School clinic, as well as the athletic training room, is covered with posters, flyers, and phrases on how to prevent concussions.
“The research that has been done on boxers and football players has been staggering. Brain damage is the bottom line,” said Gibson.
One handout, available to all students in the clinic, provides several tips on “How to Prevent a Concussion.” It lists things like wearing a seat belt, wearing a helmet, and using the right protective equipment while playing sports. It also lists common signs and symptoms of concussions, including drowsiness, difficulty concentrating or remembering, headaches, sadness and irritability.
Even the Andover Public Schools website features an entire page on information regarding concussions. It has links to the Massachusetts State Law regarding head injuries as well as NHRN Concussion Management Guidelines and links to Pre Participation Concussion forms, Report of Head Injury forms, and Post Head Injury Clearance forms.
The “return to sports” and “return to school” protocols now differ greatly from what they were in recent years. The state of Massachuetts is now mandated to have a public school policy for concussions. In Andover, student athletes are now tested via the Impact Test to create a baseline. The athletic trainer and nurses administer the test to all incoming freshmen, who are re-tested their junior year.
Darla Peterson, another senior at AHS who has suffered concussions, said, “Most teachers were pretty understanding about the concussions. They worked with me to figure out how to make up work and tests that I had to miss.”
“It’s a collaborative effort at Andover High between the clinic, guidance, and teachers,” says Gibson. Occassionally, an “emergency 504 plan” is needed if a student’s symptons last for more than the normal three to four weeks needed to recover. Athletes need to be cleared by not only their physician, but also by the guidelines set up per protocol with the trainer, Ms. Jubinville.
Students now not only have to pass a computer examination, but a physical examination as well, according to LeBlanc. But, she “felt the workout she was made to do was way too difficult for someone not being able to work out for months.” Because of this, LeBlanc injured herself again, resulting in more time out of sports.
So what really is all the fuss over concussions? According to Gibson, “even a minor bump to the head can be serious, which is why all school professionals need to know the basic ABC’s of concussions: A: Assess the situation, B: Be alert for signs and symptoms, and C: Contact the clinic or athletic trainer right away.”
By Alexa Baldwin