Changing how to combat sports concussions



The Jacksonville Jaguars faced another tough day on the field Sunday, falling to the San Diego Chargers after winning two straight, and were faced with two players being taken out of the game for concussion protocol.

The team said safety Josh Evans and wide receiver Allen Hurns both suffered head injuries during the game though Coach Gus Bradley said they were recovering well as they worked with the team's doctors.

At a time where the lasting effects of head injuries, long and short term, arising from concussions sustained on the football field, are troubling fans, players and the parents whose children are playing, the sight of Hurns lying motionless on the field caused the stadium to go silent.

He was knocked out after the play, his head hitting the ground, and the team's medical staff surrounded him for several minutes until rushing him to the hospital. There doctors diagnosed him with a concussion.

READ: Infographic on sports concussions

“A concussion is a brain injury and we have to recognize when a concussion has occurred. Concussions doesn't discriminate against a male or female athlete. Nor does it take any particular sport,” Robert Sefcik, The Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program Executive Director, said.

Sefcik said these injuries can be very serious but doctors and trainers are getting better at spotting them and treating them.

“Knowing that there are appropriate medical professionals right there taking care of an injury when it occurs, makes things a lot more manageable,” Sefick said.

He said there are more than 25 common symptoms an athlete show if they’re concussed including:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache
  • Vomiting

A survey through the program has begun to show that concussions are fairly common in sports including on the high school level where trainers have shown that from last October 2014 to October 2015, 16 local teams reported a total of 150 brain injuries affecting student athletes.

In part to survey’s like that one, teams have focused more on preventing the injuries in recent years and recognizing them if they happen.

“We are trying to look from a global perspective. Any hits, any players to get up slowly, any players that don't get up for some reason,” certified athletic trainer Jim Mackie said. “We are there to be an extra set of eyes up in the booth, to monitor if we do see a concussion that maybe somebody doesn't see.”

Starting three years ago the league has at least two experts in the booth for every game who watch for warning signs and communicate with referees and coaches.

“We have the authority to call a medical timeout, which is a very rare situation,” Mackie said.

According to the NFL the extra attention seems to be working. Since they put spotters in the booth and tightened the rules for tackling, concussions in regular season games have gone down 36 percent and they hope the numbers continue to drop.

The NFL is still getting criticism for the way it's handled brain injuries over the years. There have been several documentaries about the problems and a new movie, Concussion, will premiere in theaters this Christmas about a doctor who fought the NFL to show how dangerous the game is for football players' brains.

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