By Kevin Shannahan
Coaches and athletic trainers from Northwestern State University’s various sports were joined by their colleagues from the parish’s public schools this Friday, Aug. 12 for a presentation and panel discussion titled “Concussion in Football: An Update.” The panel discussion was chaired by Lennis Watson, Lead Athletic Trainer at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center.
The featured speaker was world renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Northshore University Health System and Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Chicago Pritzer School of Medicine. Dr. Bailes is a Natchitoches native who played football for two seasons at NSU and went on to graduate from LSU and LSU Medical School. He is a pioneering expert in the area of concussions, their treatment and prevention. Dr. Bailes was joined on the panel by Doctors Stokes, Knecht and Kautz of Natchitoches Regional Medical Center and Tommy Dean.
A concussion results from motion of the brain inside the skull due to a blow or sudden stop, such as a helmet-to-helmet hit. The brain literally bounces back and forth inside the skull. This stretches and strains neurons and fibers. Dr. Bailes stated that about 90 percent of concussions do not result in loss of consciousness, making them more difficult to detect. Symptoms include “seeing stars,” confusion and “being in a fog.”
A concussion is a temporary disruption of normal brain function. Dr. Bailes pointed out that it is extremely important that a person suffering from a concussion be symptom free before being allowed to gradually resume playing. This rest period also includes reading and avoiding any “screen time” as the brain needs a chance to rest. A subsequent injury before healing makes damage much more likely.
While the presentation was centered around football, the presenters pointed out that athletes of both sexes and every sport run the risk of concussions and therefore coaches of all sports need to be aware of them. Due to the nature of how concussions occur, there can be no such thing as a “concussion-proof” helmet. The answer lies in awareness, proper coaching and prevention.
The presentation was sponsored by Natchitoches Regional Medical Center as part of their Sports Medicine Program at each school in the parish. Lennis Watson leads a team of volunteer student athletic trainers and physicians who, along with an ambulance, are on the sidelines at every home football game.