A Nurse and Mother on Dialing Back the Risk in Football

By Karen Roush, MS, RN, FNP-C, AJN clinical managing editor

One Monday afternoon when my son Bryan was a senior in high school I got a call from him. He had hurt his back during football practice and was in so much pain he couldn’t move to get into his car. I rushed over to the field and found him standing, tense and still. When I lifted his shirt to look at his back, I gasped. The entire lumbar area was rounded and swollen out to the size of a grapefruit. At the hospital tests revealed he had a large hematoma, no critical damage done. The first question Bryan had for the doctor—“Can I play on Saturday?”

All week he insisted he could play and I insisted he couldn’t. His arguments never let up—he was quarterback and Saturday’s game was with an archrival. There wasn’t time for the backup quarterback to learn the plays, his team depended on him. Finally I made a bargain. We would go see his physician, whose judgment I trusted, and we would both respect his opinion, whichever way it went.

He played. One of the coaches wrapped his back in layers of padding with an ACE bandage and out he went. It was a brutal game. As determined as he was, the pain still slowed him down and he got tossed around like a rag doll. Finally in the last quarter they took him out.

I was reminded of all this when reading a New York Times editorial this week, “Dying to Play,” about the dangers of football and the growing body of evidence about the devastating long-term consequences of the repeated head trauma that football players endure. It talked about the decision a father, who was a pro football player, made with his son after his son got “his bell rung” in a game. They decided that the son, determined to follow his father into the pros someday, would “keep his mouth shut and his options open” rather than see the physician and wait for the okay to play.

Many parents will have their own version of these stories, the kid who insists on playing in spite of injuries or risk. They hide their injuries, downplay their pain, pop more ibuprofen than you know about. I watched Bryan’s best friend get knocked unconscious in a tackle, spectators standing silenced, watching, waiting for him to move as the coaches and the team doctor bent over him. Finally his legs started moving and people began to clap in relief and support, but I could tell by the erratic movement that he was actually seizing. An ambulance took him off to the hospital and next Saturday he was on the sidelines, impatiently waiting to get back in the game. […]

September 14th, 2012|nursing perspective, Public health|1 Comment

Back to School: Team Sports and Concussions

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN interim editor-in-chief

Concussions among young athletes are on the rise—are parents and coaches taking them too lightly?

My sons played ice hockey and football in their high school years, what my husband and I referred to as “collision sports.” The unmistakable sound of helmet-hitting-helmet always made me cringe, especially in hockey where a good skater can generate considerable speed (and therefore force) before impact. I’ve witnessed many players being helped off the ice. The coach, who knew I was a nurse, would sometimes signal to me to come to the bench and check out a player. Most of the time, the player was fine; but there were a few times when it was clear that the player was a bit more than just shaken up.

I recall one 12-year-old who had nystagmus and ringing in his ears and kept asking the same question in a slow, sleepy voice. The coach wanted to put him back out on the ice (“He just saw a few stars, right?”), but instead I sent him with his parents to the ED for evaluation. After an overnight stay in the hospital he was released, but was cautioned not to play hockey for two weeks because he’d suffered a concussion. So he waited two weeks and went back to playing, even though he still had frequent headaches. I also remember a girl who was an excellent high school soccer player. She was hoping to play in college, but by the end of her senior year she’d sustained three concussions and was having cognitive issues—she had trouble working with numbers and suffered headaches. Her neurologist told her she shouldn’t play competitively for at least a year, and perhaps permanently. She was resistant, but her parents enforced the neurologist’s ban. Good for them. […]

September 1st, 2010|nursing perspective|0 Comments