SPECIAL REPORT: Concussions in high school sports – Part 3

  • November 17, 2016

By Matt Sizemore, KION | November 17, 2016



SALINAS, Calif. – Salinas Schools are taking concussions seriously, making it harder for young athletes who may have suffered a concussion to get back on the field by incorporating an impact test.

"Every athlete – from swimming to cross country, football, lacrosse, field hockey – they all need to take that baseline test. Then from there, if there’s any question of a head injury, they have to pass their benchmarks
to get back on the playing field," said Martorella.

Sometimes, students just want to play and don’t always tell the truth about how they’re feeling.

"This is a big problem with especially the young athletes because, one, they feel invincible and, two, they want to be strong for their team. They don’t want to let their team down. It’s very important that if you think you have a concussion you tell your trainer or coach to pull you out of that game. Your long-term health is much more important than the short-term season or even the next game," said Natividad Medical Center’s Director of Emergency Department, Dr. Christopher Burke.

"They have a meeting before the whole season starts. They bring all the parents in, they go over it, they make us sign a paper, and they go over it with the boys so they are very on it with that, with concussions. They
take it very serious," said Mona Lisa Garcia, parent of a student-athlete.

"I’m very vigilant of that. My wife and I are very close to monitoring him with that. After the game we kind of talk to him a little bit just to see where his head is, ask him certain questions, see how he responds," said Miguel Martinez, another parent of a student-athlete.

Not talking about concussion symptoms can lead to second impact syndrome.

"They get to see what the potential danger could be if they did not tell the truth about a concussion and heaven forbid get hit again that they could possibly die from it," said Martorella.

During sporting events, Martorella has help from student-trainers on the sideline looking for players who might have concussion symptoms. Brittany Tibbs is one of them.

"Even if we see the slightest symptom of it, we’re like ok, we’re pulling your helmet and you’re not going to play for the rest of the week or the rest of the day until you take that test," said Student-Trainer/Athlete, Brittany Tibbs.

Trainers, student-trainers, and doctors from Natividad Medical Center, all working together to make student-athletes safe with prescreening, another tool taught through the Brain Smart Program.

"They have a nice baseline where we can get more objective information if they do sustain a concussion. We can take a look and say how do they relate to that pre-screening and that helps us in getting them back to a safe return to play," said Sports Medicine Physician at Natividad Medical Center, Dr. Debi Siljander.

"Symptoms from the average concussion don’t usually last more than a week or two, however staff from Natividad Medical Center told KION’s Matt Sizemore that if symptoms continue longer, athletes should immediately see a doctor or go to the hospital.

During a tour of Natividad Medical Center, Dr. Burke showed KION a treatment room in the emergency department’s rapid medical evaluation area.

"This is typically where a concussion patient would be seen," said Dr. Burke.

But in the end it may come down to the athlete making a smart decision. They are the final and most important step in concussion prevention.

"They don’t argue with me because they trust that I have them in their best interest," said Martorella.