After a Rock Hill middle school football player was airlifted to the hospital during an October game, local athletic trainers are working with Emergency Medical Services to ensure they are on the same page when treating injured athletes.
York County athletic trainers met with local emergency personnel on Dec. 4 in the West Center at Winthrop University to coordinate standards when it comes to treating field injuries, said Mike Smith, athletic trainer at York Comprehensive High School.
The goal is to make sure emergency responders and athletic trainers understand how best to handle sports-related injuries together, said Anna Adams, associate athletic trainer for York Comprehensive High School.
“We’re making sure we are doing everything in the best interest of the athlete,” she said.
Julia McJunkin said her 12-year-old son Luke McJunkin, a seventh grader at Sullivan Middle School who sustained a concussion during an October football game, is doing better, but continues to have some headaches and is not yet cleared for contact sports.
Luke was knocked unconscious for more than 20 minutes and was airlifted to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed Luke with a concussion and he was put on bed rest, McJunkin said. She said Luke went back to school and is recovering.
“We’re taking it a little bit at a time,” McJunkin said. “He’s doing really well.”
That incident was the catalyst for the recent discussions with emergency personnel, said Kimberly Bressler, head athletic trainer for Clover High School.
“It identified some areas of weakness we needed to sit down and talk about,” she said.
Bressler said York County and Winthrop University athletic trainers are working with Tom Howard, assistant chief of operations for Piedmont EMS, to establish guidelines for emergency responders and athletic trainers to work together when needed during games.
“Our techniques are different from what they’re taught,” Howard said. “They didn’t understand what we do and we didn’t really understand what they do. The two paths are finally going to intersect and I think it will be a much better working relationship in the future.”
The two paths are finally going to intersect and I think it will be a much better working relationship in the future.
Tom Howard, Piedmont EMS
Howard said Piedmont and York County athletic trainers will be training together in February on proper equipment removal and spinal immobilization techniques when dealing with injuries during football and lacrosse.
“It’s an opportunity for us to finally get to know one another,” Howard said. “We’re in parallel fields, but the fields mesh together when it comes to patient care for these kids.”
Daisy Burroughs, spokesperson with Piedmont Medical Center, said the collaboration will benefit students.
“It’s going to be a value for the students participating in sports,” she said. “Those are real situations, they do happen, and when they happen those students will be well taken care of.”
Under a 2013 state law, South Carolina schools must have a concussion protocol in place that is based on state guidelines, Adams said. Though the policies may vary by district, students who experience any type of blow to the body or head and show even a single concussion-like symptom must be removed from play and examined by a medical professional.
South Carolina’s Student Athlete Concussions Law makes that clear for students, coaches and parents, Adams, the athletic trainer from YCHS, said.
“The law that’s in place helps us in advocating for the athlete,” Adams said.
Concussion symptoms include appearing dazed, personality changes, clumsiness, headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, double or blurry vision, concentration or memory problems and confusion.
After a York student-athlete with a concussion has been treated and cleared by a physician, he or she goes through a graduated return to play process, Adams said. That includes light exercise that gradually intensifies to full contact practice as long as the student shows no symptoms.
As winter sports such as basketball and wrestling continue in middle and high school, parents and student-athletes need to be aware of the risk of concussions, said Dr. David Wiercisiewski, director of the Carolina Sports Concussion Program based in Charlotte. The program is a division of the Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Association.
Any athlete thought to have sustained a concussion should not return to play or practice until they are cleared by a physician, Wiercisiewski said. He said athletes can develop symptoms over several hours and a quick assessment on the field is not enough.
“There is far too much risk,” Wiercisiewski said.
Wiercisiewski said parents and coaches should look for disorientation, confusion, headaches and other signs. He said they should also monitor if the young athlete for signs of any unusual behavior. Wiercisiewski also said adolescents and teens typcialy take longer to heal than adults and a full recovery could take months. He said parents should not be surprised if their student is still having headaches two weeks after sustaining a concussion, especially given the additional strains school and other activities places on their brain.
“The role of technology in a kid’s social life and education places an additional burden on their brain,” Wiercisiewski said.
Athletic trainers also let teachers know when a student has a concussion, so accommodations can be made in the classroom, Smith said.
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082