Mandatory concussion baseline test beneficial to young athletes

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CUMMING, Ga. — Cumming resident Stacie Garramone cheered as her son scored a goal for South Forsyth High School’s freshman lacrosse team against Druid Hills.

But she stopped cheering when he walked himself off the field.

“When he scored, the referee threw the yellow flag and I figured it was a penalty,” she said. “I didn’t realize the goalie left the field for hitting my son.”

Garramone said her son Cameron, 15, was hit in the side of his helmet, snapping his head sideways.

“The goalie has both hands on his stick and hit him next to his ear,” she said. “He walked himself off the field and when the coach asked why, he didn’t know.”

Garramone’s son was out for the rest of the game, but seemed fine, so he went to school the next day.

“He called me from school and told me his head was throbbing and he felt sick to his stomach,” she recalled. “So I brought him to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at the Collection and he was diagnosed with a concussion.”

Garramone’s son is one of thousands of young adults diagnosed with concussions each year, and the number is rising, experts say.

“We see kids with concussions several times a week,” said Dr. Russ Mitchell of Northside Emergency Associates.

Statistics show football is the No. 1 traumatic brain injury sport in the country, with sports like lacrosse, soccer, cheerleading and gymnastics following closely behind.

Last year, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the Georgia Youth Concussion law to protect children from sustaining injuries from unnoticed or untreated concussions.

The law requires parents to sign a concussion-information form before their child can participate in sports and that any child with a possible concussion be removed from the sport until they’re cleared to play again by a medical professional.

“Cameron took the baseline test before the season started,” Garramone said. “And when he took the concussion test at Children’s, he failed.”

Garramone said the test helped her understand the severity of his injury and is glad the state requires them.

“With the test, we have more information than just asking our child how they feel,” she said.

Her son’s treatment plan incudes rest, limited stimulation and activity until his symptoms are gone.

Garramone’s son didn’t black out from the injury, but that’s not always the case with a concussion.

Dr. William Primos, of Children’s Healthcare, said traumatic brain injuries like concussions vary in intensity.

“Each injury is unique dependent upon the location and intensity of the hit, as well as several other factors,” Primos said.

Recoveries vary, too, but Primos said it’s all about rest and limited stimulation.

“As the symptoms dissipate, activities are slightly increased,” he said. “We have a very specific system to determine the rise in activities.”

Primos encourages parents to take children to the doctor after they are hit in the head.

“What may seem like something minor can actually be serious,” Primos said. “And certainly not worth the risk.”

Common signs of a concussion

- Appears dazed or stunned

- Confused about assignment

- Forgets plays

- Is unsure of game or opponent

- Moves clumsily

- Answers questions slowly

- Loses consciousness (even temporarily)

- Shows behavior or personality changes

- Forgets events prior to injury (retrograde amnesia)

- Forgets events after injury (anterograde amnesia)

(Source: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

Common symptoms of a concussion

- Confusion

- Clumsy movement or dizziness

- Nausea or vomiting

- Memory loss

- Tiredness

- Upset stomach

- Vision problems

- Sensitivity to noise and light

- Numbness or tingling anywhere on the body

- Loss of balance or trouble walking

- Mentally foggy, cannot think clearly or remember things

- Slurred speech or other changes in speech

- Irritable or more fussy than usual

- Acts differently than normal (does not play, acts fussy or seems confused)

- More emotional, perhaps very sad or nervous

- Different sleeping patterns

(Source: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

JC 03-20-14