Jake Snakenberg was a 15 year-old freshman football player at Grandview High School in Aurora, Colorado when he died after suffering a concussion during practice. It was at least the second concussion for Jake, the first apparently so mild no one paid attention to it.
Signs and symptoms of a concussion include dizziness, balance problems, headaches and sensitivity to light or noise. Sometimes they are not apparent until hours or days later. Most people who have a concussion do not lose consciousness.
In a recent class-action suit, more than two thousand professional football players sued the National Football League for failure to warn about the dangers of concussions, for concealing the cumulative effect of multiple concussions and for not providing adequate protection against them.
As tragically illustrated by Jack’s death, the risk of concussions from high impact collisions are not isolated to professional football. As many as 250,000 concussions occur each year in high school football. The problem extends to other sports as well.
In 2011,Coloradopassed a law that bears Jake’s name – the Jake Snakenberg Law. It requires concussion education for all coaches who participate in organized athletic activities for youth ages 11-19. According to Jake’s Law, if a coach suspects a concussion, whether during practice or during a game, the athlete must be removed from play immediately and cannot return until cleared by a medical professional.
Even mild concussions can result in serious long-term problems, particularly if an athlete is allowed to return to play too early. Mesa County’s medical community rallied together to respond better to this serious medical condition. A collaborative effort between physicians, schools, Rocky Mountain Health Plans[NC1] and hospitals has resulted in a community wide model for concussion management.
Physicians, schools and coaches collaborate in a treatment plan for their patients and students. In addition to a careful evaluation, the doctor asks what symptoms the child is experiencing, as well as what parents and other people observe.
It is important to recognize many young people want to “get back into the game” as soon as possible and will not always report symptoms they are experiencing. Careful observation by others is important during both the initial medical assessment and as a child heals. This assessment may include the use of a computerized cognitive test to determine such things as the child’s ability to remember, or their reaction time.
Rest and inactivity are the best treatment for concussion. This means no texting, no video games, no driving, no reading, even (gasp) no homework.
It is also important that the school is made aware of the child’s injury.
LikeMesaCounty, schools across the country are willing to modify academic expectations for children who have had a concussion. Many have a “return to play” protocol that includes a gradual re-entry to activity with careful observation of how the child is responding.
Failure to recognize and treat a concussion appropriately could result in delayed healing or, worse, serious consequences for the child who experiences a second concussion.
To learn more about how you can help keep your child safe, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/concussionand talk with your school about their plans for dealing with students who may have a concussion.