North Texas Daily

UNT medical staff takes concussion issue seriously

UNT medical staff takes concussion issue seriously

UNT medical staff takes concussion issue seriously
October 10
17:26 2013

Brett Medeiros / Senior Staff Writer

In the last decade, football has received a bad reputation because of dangers from the sport and, in some cases, its life-threatening nature.

According to data from the NCAA from the 2004-2009 seasons, concussions count for 7.4 percent of all injuries in college football. Add it to other head, face and neck injuries, and the percentage is boosted to 11.7 percent.

Football head coach Dan McCarney has coached since 1977 and has seen the concerns about concussions change.

“Back then, we didn’t deal with concussions like we do now. We would just say shake it off, take a couple Advil and quit complaining,” McCarney said. “Thank God there’s new medical research and technology and understanding of the injury.”

When a player suffers a concussion, the effect is not directly from an impact to the head. UNT Director of Sports Medicine Dustin Hill said a concussion is a chain reaction of kinetic energy that forces the brain to move and slam up against the inner walls of the skull.

According to the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program there are 2.5 concussions reported for every 1,000 game-related exposures in the 2011 season alone.

“You’re going to be very lucky if you go through an entire season without dealing with at least one case of a concussion on team,” Hill said. “It’s just going to happen.”

While concussions aren’t the most serious injury that can happen on a football field, there are extreme cases of what a collision to the head can do.

“It’s a risk that we take as football players. You ask anyone that plays the game and they understand the serious risk of playing,” senior linebacker Zach Orr said. “The best prevention for us is to use proper technique when tackling and not lead with our head.”

At UNT, the Mean Green football team and its staff of medical experts have not only been on top of the concussion epidemic, but in many ways ahead of the entire NCAA.

“Each institution has to have a policy and procedure protocol in place with the athletic department,” Hill said. “The good thing is since I have been here, this being my 12th year, we are so far ahead of the NCAA it’s ridiculous.”

For example, the NCAA has required medical staffs to make sickle cell screenings before each season, something Hill and his team have been doing for 13 years.

When a player suffers a concussion, the first signs are a headache, dizziness, trouble seeing, nausea and in some cases memory loss. After 30 minutes, if the symptoms do not regress, the individual will feel like he or she wants to go to sleep.

The feeling of sleepiness is the red flag of a concussion. It’s the body’s way of telling itself it needs to shut down because something is wrong.

“I have had a minor concussion before and been dazed a good bit, but nothing major,” senior running back Brandin Byrd said. “I remember that hit, but thinking back to it, I can’t recall the play prior to the hit.”

Before someone can return to the field after suffering a concussion, the player must be free of concussion-like symptoms for 24 hours without any medication.

Afterward, the player must complete and pass a barrage of tests and be cleared by the team’s medical staff.

Hill said he believes football will return to the use of leather helmets. He used the international sport of Rugby as an example.

“If you take away that safety blanket and weapon, the player’s mindset will alter and so will their playing style. Players will no longer lead with their head to tackle,” he said.  “Concussions are still there in rugby, but nowhere on the same level as football.”

No concussions have been reported for UNT players this season.

Junior offensive lineman Antonio Johnson takes a tackle from a Ball State opponent during a home game at Apogee Stadium on Sept. 14. Feature photo by Ryan Vance / Staff Photographer

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