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Concussion discussion: UNI proactive in keeping its athletes healthy

Concussion discussion: UNI proactive in keeping its athletes healthy

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There were more than three and a half million sports concussions in 2012. 


Football concussions get the headlines, and for good reason. More than 45-per cent of all sports concussions occur in football, and 33-per cent of those happen in practice, according to the Headcase Company. http://www.headcasecompany.com/concussion_info/stats_on_concussions_sports

The University of Northern Iowa pays particularly close attention to the health and safety of its Panther athletes

UNI Head Athletic Trainer, Don Bishop, says the lawsuit filed against the National Football League by former players propelled put the concussion issue in the headlines, but, Bishop says UNI has attacked the issue for a long time. \


“It's always been a serious issue. It's just become part of the forefront of everything with what's going on with the NFL.  It's just something we have to be very, very aware of, says Bishop.

Don Bishop says concussions must be taken more seriously because they're traumatic head injuries.  He says, “Basically, a concussion is an injury to the brain. The brain is at a metabolically altered state. So, it's been compromised.”


In the UN I Athletic Training room, you can always find Panther student-athletes in rehabilitation from various kinds of injuries. 

Northern Iowa has some 400-student athletes, but only had 22 concussions in all of its sports  last year, mainly football and women's  soccer.  No one returns to action until they are completely recovered, says Head Football Coach, Mark Farley.
“There's also the standard of the testing, the pre-testing and the post-testing, to make sure that everybody is completely healed, if you will, before they come back to the field.”

  
Panther linebacker, Nate Shaw, has had numerous concussions. “I've had seven concussions, spanning kind of through my whole life.”  Shaw is a sophomore from Bettendorf. Nate was First Team All-State in Class 4A and a member of the prestigious Register Elite Team.  Most of his concussions came before he arrived at UNI. 


Shaw says, “The whole process is really scary. A lot of times, you kind of forget things. Sometimes,  you get really dazed and confused, and it will take you a few days to come back.”

But, this season, Nate, and eleven other Panther football players, are getting some concussion help from their Riddell football helmets. 


For the first time, UNI is using the Riddell Insite Impact Response System https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEokhr_wsys for impact alert monitoring. 


The technology features Impact sensors inside the helmet, says Travis Stueve, UNI Athletic Trainer in charge of football. 


Travis says, “These sensors in these helmets are registering how large an impact the helmet is taking. They've http://www.riddell.com/ set a mount, size of the impact that they consider would be large enough to create a concussion. “The sensor is just registering all these impacts.”

Travis keeps a close watch during practice and games, always carrying a handheld, wireless, alert  monitor, similar to a pager.

“The sensor then sends me basically an alert that says, so and so has registered a large impact. It tells me the name, and it tells me they've had a large impact. These impacts may not cause a concussion, but, it's just a way for us to say. Hey, let's go check on this athlete and make sure they're all right

.

With two sons, Jake and Jared, playing for him, Panther Head Coach, mark Farley, has the priorities in order. Farley says,  “You know safety comes first, and it's really been magnified with all the things that are going on.”


Coach Farley believes player education on concussions and the new sensors  have helped raised  awareness and raise UNI safety standards.”

Coach Farley adds, “For the University and for what we do, from the turf to the helmets to the sensors in the helmets I mean everybody's going  to every extent to make sure that there's safety for the players. The testing they do before the player is allowed back on the field is one of the best things I think has happened to college football.”

UNI Head Athletic Trainer, Don Bishop, says players and their parents need to be looking for the symptoms of concussions. “As a parent they should definitely recognize that their child is just not quite right. They have to be symptom-free.  Basically, the brain has to be recovered before they go back to play,” Bishop says.

Nate Shaw has advice for players and parents. “Every concussion is different. So, it's really between you, your parents and your doctor. I got some great help, so, I got through that.  My parents felt it was still safe to play. I think the number one thing is getting neurology help. It's kind of an up and coming field, but that really helped me the most.  Rest is definitely up there, cause your brain needs to be able to recuperate before you can get hit again or just even process the mental aspect of football.”

Working with team doctors, the UNI Athletic Trainers, not the coaches, have the finally say when an athlete can return to action.

Coach Farley says 'gone' are the old days of ‘just get back out  there and tough it out.'


Coach Farley added, “Earlier on, you kind of thought, hey, get back on the field, but the testing has proven that, maybe they seem like they're all right, but, really, their reaction isn't quite as fast as it was prior to the injury, so that testing has made it safer for the player, and then, when you go to the sensor in the helmets, I think that's another pro-active thing to do, to find a problem maybe before the individual knows it happened.”  


UNI requires its athletes to learn about concussions from the athletic trainers and actually sign a contract that they fully understand the symptoms and what to do it they experience a concussion.


Concussions carry with them a long list of symptoms, including, but not limited to, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, depression, memory loss, loss of appetite, irritability, drowsiness, loss of consciousness, confusion, problems with balance, difficulty speaking or communicating. The Mayo Clinic has in depth information on concussions.  
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/concussion/basics/definition/con-20019272

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