Concussions in ACPS

Photo By: Tim Desimone

Tim Desimone, Editor-in-Chief

For student athletes, the constant shadow of injury is a cautious reminder of the dangers of their sport. A broken bone or pulled muscle could be the end of a season, or at a minimum a painful process of recovery.

For most, a pulled muscle is ideal in comparison to the other dangers on the field. Take high school football, for example, where 67,000 concussions are diagnosed a year.

“For me, personally, concussions are a serious concern,” says assistant football coach Michael Redmond. “Obviously, your brain is the only one you’ve got. So yeah, we take it seriously.”

High school football is notoriously considered the most dangerous of youth athletics. It has an extremely high proportion of concussions (47.1%) and the highest concussion rate in high school sports (6.4 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures). As a result, many parents and athletes are hesitant to throw on the cleats.

In 2011, fall sports at Western gathered up 18 concussions. It was the most out of any of the county high schools. The following May, the Redmond family was hired to coach and with the wins came a surprising number. Fall concussions were down to eight, the least in the county. While the most recent data is yet to be collected, a Western Hemisphere investigation concludes the number is expected to be the same, if not lower.

“As a coach in particular, I take pride in a lot of the training that we do here. Kids that train with us, full term throughout the school year, very rarely get concussions,” said Redmond. “I think I’ve had two in my career as a strength coach. It’s the exercises that we do, we do a ton of neck strength, and also upper chest, back and shoulders.”

As for concussions during the Western Albemarle football season, the number sits on one hand. According to Coach Redmond, he has less than five a year. The other two or three will come from the other fall sports such as field hockey or volleyball.

While these are certainly positive things to hear, for the unlucky few with a history of concussions much of the damage is already done.

Senior Henry Houghton received his first concussion in the 7th grade, a freak accident held accountable by some horseplay with friends. “The first one was the worst one. It was at football practice, and my friend Adam swung his helmet at the back of my head when I was turned around. I actually ended up with a huge lump, and had to get X-Rays to make sure I hadn’t fractured my skull.”

Since that day, Henry has accumulated a grand total of six concussions. Three were earned on his own, and three were during Western Albemarle games or practices. His concussions have spanned three sports, and were enough to convince his parents, and his doctor, to refuse him anymore time carrying the pigskin. Currently, Henry plays lacrosse and recreational basketball.

While most concussions are completely resolved within six weeks, recent research has shown the effects to be long lasting. For Henry, he has had a safe stretch. However, he isn’t convinced he’s completely in the clear. “I’ve stayed safe the past couple years, so I feel like my head is in a pretty good place. But definitely there are times where I think ‘Oh in the past I would have been able to remember this, why can’t I?’”