BEN SIECK | ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
Concussions are a hot-button topic in the sports world, and even the hint or risk of one occurring is cause for immediate concern from coaches, trainers, parents, fans and athletes.
Butler’s athletic programs are no different. Concussions remain at the forefront of trainers’ and coaches’ minds during any Butler athletic event.
“We’re always keeping an eye on the field or the court for somebody, if they get hit in the head, or if they get hit in a way that causes their head to snap back,” head athletic trainer Ryan Galloy said. “That can cause a concussion too.”
Galloy said the fall sports season always comes with a larger threat for concussions because of football, but athletes in sports like soccer and basketball experience their fair share of concussions too.
“(With soccer) I think most concussions happen from head-to-head contact,” said Paul Snape, Butler’s men’s soccer coach. “But I’ve seen it where a player is struck by the ball at close range, or legs and feet get tangled up and someone gets a kick to the head.”
Galloy said concussions can fluctuate in numbers from year to year, but patterns do develop.
“Its tough to put a concrete number on how often we see concussions,” Galloy said. “I can’t really say how often we get ankle sprains, but we certainly get more (concussions) in the fall because of football season.”
“We get a few here and there because of basketball or soccer.There’s obviously less in the spring season, but at the same time, those other teams are going all year long.”
After a head injury is identified, Galloy and the rest of the athletic training staff work quickly to make sure the injury isn’t something worse than a concussion.
“When you see people doing tests on a player on the sideline, people get confused and think we’re doing concussion testing,” Galloy said. “We already have an idea they have a concussion. We’re checking to make sure they don’t have a hemorrhage or a bleed in the brain.
“If they can’t complete any of the tests we’re doing then we say, ‘You need to go to the hospital.’”
Galloy said he hasn’t dealt with anything that significant while at Butler, but that’s partially due to luck.
Those injuries can happen at a moment’s notice, and the medical staff has to be prepared, Galloy said.
If an athlete doesn’t show signs of significant brain trauma, the medical staff will check to see if the athlete has symptoms of a concussion.
Galloy said if a player has anything more than a headache—such as dizziness, blurred vision, or memory loss—they know they are likely dealing with a concussion.
Once a concussion has been diagnosed, the athlete undergoes a series of treatments designed to gradually progress them back to health.
The first treatment step for an athlete who suffers a concussion is rest.
“As long as they have any symptoms—and, typically, the last symptom to go away is a headache—they’re on full rest,” Galloy said.
Butler student-athletes take an impact test at the beginning of their respective seasons to determine their cognitive baseline levels.
Once a concussed athlete is symptom-free, he or she must take the impact test again to determine if he or she has is back at that baseline level.
Athletes must pass this test before they can continue with their recovery.
Depending on how the athlete responds to rest, the athlete might have to miss class or avoid any type of brain activity that causes strain.
Once the athlete is symptom free, he or she must wait a minimum of 24 hours before being cleared to resume athletic activity.
Depending on the length and severity of symptoms, as well as the player’s medical history, Galloy said the medical staff might hold the athlete out even longer.
Once the athlete is cleared to resume activity, he or she must be able to raise his or her heart rate without feeling symptoms return.
If symptoms do return at any point, then team physicians will make the athlete rest some more and repeat the heart rate test after they determine the athlete is ready to do so.
Even after an athlete has completed the recovery process, he or she is eased back into the sport.
Galloy said athletes should practice before jumping back into a game situation.
Concussion perception has changed significantly over the years.
Jeff Voris, Butler’s football coach, played quarterback at DePauw University in the 1980s and said that, while he didn’t suffer a concussion himself, players who did were treated differently than they are treated now.
“A headache was part of the game. Now it’s critical that guys are honest with themselves and with the training staff,” Voris said. “When I was playing, people would cover that up. But now players are educated about the importance of concussion treatment.”
To Galloy, the biggest thing he asks of athletes is for them to be accountable for one another.
“We emphasize being a good teammate,” Galloy said. “If you have a teammate that you see doesn’t look right or is struggling, we want teammates to say to us, ‘So-and-so doesn’t look right, (and) you might want to check him out.’ That way we can identify a concussion before it becomes something worse.”