Fran Jolly remembers when she saw her daughter Rebekah block a soccer ball using her head:
“I knew the ball had hit her ear pretty hard. And I thought, ‘Oh oh, this can’t sound too good,’ And I was watching what was going on. She continued to play, but she did go to the athletic trainer.”
After an eye tracking and balance test, it was determined that her daughter had suffered a concussion. She was referred to concussion specialist Dr. Summer Ott, at Houston’s University of Texas Health Science Center.
“When the brain is already injured and it’s traumatized, to go back out and have another blow to the head — especially in high impact collission sports like hockey, football, soccer where there’s repetitive trauma to the head — that could produce a second impact syndrome, which is rare. But it can [result in] permanent neurological issues and in some cases, even death can occur.”
She says a concussion deprives the brain of the nutrients and energy it needs to regulate blood pressure. She recommended Fran Jolly’s daughter avoid all electronics that stimulated her brain: iPhone, television and the computer, for three weeks. She says Rebekah painfully followed Dr Ott’s regimen.
“You would incrementally add another exercise to your recovery and see how well you tolerated it. And if you got any kind of a sign of the concussion, anything that you originally experienced, you would go back to square one again.”
Dr. Christopher Giza of the American Academy of Neurology, is one of the authors of the new concussion guildelines. He says there is no set timeline for a safe return to play:
“Sometimes an athlete may not recognize they’ve had a concussion. But the teammate in the huddle, the coach or the parent on the sideline, certainly any medical personnel or healthcare providers on the sideline, should be aware of this. If you’re not sure that it’s a concussion, sit the athlete out.”
Fran Jolly says her daughter saw how important it was to heal:
“The three weeks were the key. And we did not move on to any phase of training until Dr. Ott said that we could do so.”
“So, four months later?”
“And, I guess every now and then, you can’t help but kiss her noggin, huh?”
You can find more information on the new concussion guidelines at the American Academy of Neurology.