It seems as though every four or five years a new sports related injury becomes prominent and subject to center stage of any debate in high school sports regarding safety. At one point during my high school career the major focus was on overuse of athletes and injuries that resulted of that. Today it is concussions that are the focus. They are not something to joke about by any means.
Flashback to the fall of 2008, I was recovering from an emergency appendectomy during the tail end of the regular season for the Geneseo Varsity soccer team. As a result, Coach Chris Masters was forced to call up Junior Varsity goalkeeper Matt McClure. In his first game McClure performed admirably earning a 0-0 shutout of LeRoy. However in the final game of the regular season McClure came out to stop a shot from a Mount Morris attacker in the waning moments of the first half. McClure took a knee right to the side of the head that nearly knocked him out. On the sidelines I looked on as the athletic trainer asked McClure to recall simple events from the last couple of minutes. He did not answer a single one correctly because he simply could not remember. Following that blow to the head, McClure missed the rest of the season which was over a month of play. A few inches one way or the other, the injury could have been much more severe.
Football by nature has more concussions that most other sports simply due to the nature of the contact. The NFL and NCAA have attempted to make better restrictions and guidelines in order to limit the amount of head injuries that occur. At the high school level it seems like it is up to the athlete to be honest about the state of their brains and how scrambled they actually are. Like any other athlete that is competitive and motivated to play, if a coach or trainer asks how you feel, (unless the player is in mass amounts of pain) the typical response is “I’m good coach.” And who can blame them? As I attend Division I competitor Canisius College, an injury that takes out a student-athlete’s season is simply a bump in the road, a medical redshirt can be applied for so that the athlete can still compete for four years if they so choose. However, in high school, just those four precious years stand. Many of the guys I played with did not want to sit out knowing that for many, their time is numbered to the day they are eliminated from Sectional play in their senior season. Sitting out is not something to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It’s the right thing to do.
One last thing, just this past Monday football player named Damon Janes, 16, from Brocton/Westfield (Section VI) high school football team died from injuries sustained Friday night in a football game against Portville. The symptoms of the injury were consistent with brain trauma according to the Buffalo News. Janes was injured in a helmet-to-helmet collision and was knocked unconscious on the play.
So as the battle rages on to find better protective measures for the athletes, it is important to remember that head injuries are a serious matter that requires attention. For now, stay vigilant and honest, a tragedy on the field, ice or court is not worth taking a week or two off just to heal up.