New helmets hope to fix concussion problem

Anna MacDonald

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Constant dizziness, headaches and nausea — getting a concussion is a terrible feeling, one that not many people understand unless they have experienced the ordeal themselves.

Recovering involves resting the brain in order to let it heal. This could include staying away from anything like TV, phones, computer screens, loud and active environments, or even reading books. Students suffering from a concussion often have to stop going to class and may end up missing school entirely.

Five concussions have affected the men’s lacrosse team this season. While concussions are a fairly typical sports injury, they are increasingly more common in lacrosse. Too many concussions over a lifetime may also cause permanent damage to the brain. Even worse, getting a second concussion while still healing from a first concussion can be fatal. Lacrosse is known to be a violent contact sport, and many of the players here at the University of Dallas are aware of that risk.

“Lacrosse is just a tough, physical game in which the risk of concussions is assumed,” senior Alex Ziolkowski said.

While most players on the team have suffered a concussion, these concussions only prevent players from participating after several serious injuries. But if an athlete experiences one concussion, he is  more susceptible to another.

Junior PJ Hasson, who has documented a shocking six concussions, described the experience.

“Getting a concussion is a weird feeling — and not in a good way,” Hasson said. “Imagine feeling drunk, but without the fun parts. And with an awful headache.”

After his last concussion, Hasson was forbidden by doctors to return to the sport.

“I actually haven’t been able to play since my concussion last spring,” Hasson said. “The doctors say I’m done playing lax; I prefer to say I’m retired.”

Concussions have hit the team hard this season. While men’s lacrosse is a sport that assumes the risk of a concussion, some players mentioned that the helmets may have had something to do with the injuries.

“The helmets we used had something to do with [the concussions] because they were hard to see out of, compared to other brand helmets,” junior Nick Baeza, who has documented five concussions, said.

“Before we got our new helmets, someone would get a concussion almost every single game,” senior KC Pierce added. “But now with the new ones, we have yet to receive a single head-related injury, despite some heavy hits that could have been much more dangerous with the old helmets.”

After concerns about the helmets were brought up, coach Keith Lindgren arranged for the team to get new helmets out of concern for the athletes’ mental health. Since the team started using the new helmets they have not received a single concussion.

Despite the dramatic decrease in concussions for the lacrosse team, the medical staff remains prepared in the case of concussions in any sport. If it is suspected that a player is concussed, they are immediately sent to the school’s athletic trainers. They test the student by comparing his mental faculties to a baseline test, which is administered to each student individually at the beginning of each season.

When asked about concussion treatment, Lindgren confirmed the protocol.

“I have nothing but complete faith in our medical staff and their ability to treat and rehab all of our student athletes regardless of the injury,” Lindgren said.

Lead athletic trainer Robb Leibold explained the depth of the UD concussion protocol.

“We have two qualified athletic trainers on staff and a team physician,” Leibold said. “In addition, we work with a concussion specialist doctor and have a neuropsychologist that we use for any case that needs extended attention. Not many Division III schools have a neuropsych on call when they need him.”

The athletes confirmed that the care they received after their concussions was exceptional.

Brain damage among athletes is an increasingly serious issue in the modern sports world. The serious protocol of the athletic department allows many coaches, parents and administrators to rest easy, but it can also draw attention to a part of our school that may not be so well regulated.

Athletic clubs, including ultimate frisbee and the rugby team, are quite popular at UD and present just as many opportunities to receive concussions as the NCAA sanctioned sports. Both clubs know that concussions have been a serious issue in the past, but no clear measures are established to handle concussion trauma, serious or otherwise.

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