Code of silence still exists about concussions

By Shawn Stinson

November 5, 2013

Head injuries have been front and center this year as the NFL and other professional leagues are beginning to work in cooperation with doctors, researchers and equipment manufacturers to diagnose and attempt to prevent them.

This is a change from the culture where concussions were treated by not treating them.

In the past, players kept quiet about any symptoms they may have been experiencing for fear of being called out by coaches or teammates for being soft or injury-prone. Coaches would minimize the “bell-ringing” or “cobweb-clearing” hits and send a player to the sideline to recover for a moment before being pulled back onto the field to finish practice or a game.

The media is finally putting the dangers of concussions on the national stage and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Last week the Institute of Medicine released a report stating high school athletes are twice as likely as their college-aged counterparts to suffer a concussion. And girls are more susceptible to concussions than boys.

Three years ago, Richmond Senior athletic trainer Mitch Hadinger was happy to weigh in on the discussion long before it was considered cool to do so.

Hadinger was responding to the HBO show “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” which aired a story about concussions in high school football and stated eight players had died from head injuries and several more suffered catastrophic injuries following a concussion.

Since then, the NFL, the NCAA and the NHSF have enacted new rules to attempt to prevent helmet-to-helmet contact or targeting an opponent’s head. Studies have found enforcing these penalties have helped reduce concussions, but haven’t completely eliminated them.

Helmet manufacturers are attempting to get ahead of the curve and introduce new and safer equipment to reduce the number of concussions. While it reflects a step in the right direction, a study introduced at a gathering of the American Academy of Pediatrics this fall shows it has resulted in little change in the number of concussions for high school players wearing three different makes of helmet.

Hadinger said there have been five concussions at the school this year, three involved a member of the football team, the other two were soccer players.

“They didn’t fall under those rules,” Hadinger said.

Two of the concussions occurred on the football practice field during a drill when the players were going “about half-speed” Hadinger said. The soccer injuries were a result of a player being kicked in the head and the other came when a player headed a ball.

Hadinger added with concussions becoming more widely discussed, it is both a blessing and a curse for him and his fellow athletic trainer, Mike Brown. He said the information being readily available aids parents in knowing the symptoms to look for in their child, but it also helps the player try to hide them as well.

“In our situation, I think it is great parents are more concerned about it,” Hadinger said. “I think the more they know the better because it helps me communicate with them.

“When I talk about this in class, I can see the football players smile because they know they had some of these symptoms and had a concussion. They don’t want to talk about the evil ‘C’ word.”

This shows the culture of silence is still alive and well, but hopefully it will drowned out by players willing to speak up.

Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.