“My brother’s junior year was completely screwed up by his concussions,” said Senior Jordan Trinh, whose graduated brother, Ethan, wrestled for the Varsity Wrestling team. “He played through at least two concussions before he finally had to quit . . . He had trouble with school, and his GPA dropped.”
Ethan’s story is just one of hundreds that are told every day across the nation. Out of the 300,000 concussions that occur annually, over a third of them are sustained in high school contact sports, reports the University of Pittsburgh’s Neurology Department.
For Ethan, playing through his concussions meant doing all he could to help his team. But according to head trauma specialist Dr. Mick Collins, “It’s about the worst thing you could do for your health. An overlooked concussion can change an athlete’s life more than they might think.”
Wilde Lake football player and wrestler Kristopher Gough has suffered two concussions in the last two years. At the end of his recovery time, though Gough is ready to go out and fight just as hard.
“There’s something about the game that makes you want to play no matter what the risk,” said Gough. Gough feels that he can speak for most of the school’s athletes when he says team dedication means going back out on the field no matter what.
In a recent Paw Print poll, nineteen out of twenty Wilde Lake athletes agreed with Gough, saying they would play through a concussion if it meant helping their team win.
However, Ally Hammond, Wilde Lake’s athletic trainer, is in firm belief that Wilde Lake athletes concussions are overdiagnosed. “If a student is really injured,” said Ms. Hammond, “they’re not going to be able to play, regardless of whether they want to or not.” Ms. Hammond administers and the impact testing that is required to participate in most Wilde Lake sports and believes the tests are thorough enough to keep the concussed players off the field.
Ms. Hammond prides herself and the school on keeping the concussion rate at Wilde Lake one of lowest in Howard County, averaging below twenty concussions a year.
“If nothing else, [concussions] need less attention. There are some really serious problems in sports today, but concussions aren’t one of them . . . Helmets are better. People are more aware. In ten or fifteen years we’re going to look back onto today and see the numbers go way down.”
But there is still controversy among professionals as to whether or not helmets and optimism will be enough. “When it comes down to it,” says Dr. Collins, “thousands of kids are permanently damaging their brain every year, and this number will only increase and become more dangerous.”