It’s every athlete’s worst nightmare, but for Jordan Rose, it is reality. As the Mazama High School junior sat in the waiting room Friday afternoon at Basin Immediate Care, he did anything he could think of to take his mind off it. He picked up a hunting magazine, played games on his phone.
But nothing could make him forget even for a second the possibility that his high school athletic career was over.
“I was kind of nervous to get the news,” Rose said.
A starter on the football team this fall and likely on his way to the state wrestling tournament his senior year, Rose’s athletic career was in serious jeopardy after suffering a concussion when he smacked his head on the mat during a dual wrestling meet Jan. 2. But it wasn’t the first time. He has actually suffered more like half a dozen concussions.
All of this weighed on him as he waited to hear from the doctor, who called him in and wasted no time.
“He was straight up,” Rose said. “No more impact sports, probably the first words that came out of his mouth. It sucks I can’t play them anymore and be a part of the teams at Mazama.”
One word could sum up how he felt that day. Shock.
Unfortunately for Rose, a helmet, head gear, mouth guard or other piece of equipment to make an athlete “concussion-proof” doesn’t exist. It is unclear if it ever will.
So instead, it is up to players, coaches, trainers and parents to recognize the signs of a concussion and make sure all the proper steps are taken when dealing with such an injury.
“What everyone is hoping for is that there will be a magic helmet,” said Dr. Michael Koester, chair of the Oregon Schools Activities Association. “I don’t see that happening.
“That is the holy grail for equipment managers to have something that can reduce (or prevent) concussions. We just don’t have that available yet. The research that is going on is very top secret. There just isn’t anything out there that people are publishing,” he explained.
Safety in the NFL
Player health and safety have become a battle ground between the National Football League and former players, many of whom are suing the league over the long-term health effects that former gridiron warriors often suffer in their post-playing days.
Repeated head trauma, such as the high-velocity blows NFL players deliver and endure over the course of their careers, and the possibility that such hits have led players like Junior Seau to commit suicide, are just one reason head injuries are so concerning.
During the 2011-12 school year, head and facial injuries were most likely to occur in high school athletics, with nearly 309,000 estimated incidents, according to a surveillance study done by High School RIO (Reporting Information Online) and presented by the Center for Injury Research & Policy.
While the NFL’s efforts to improve the long-term health of professional players are highly publicized, what might be lost in the shuffle is what is being done closer to home to minimize injuries, especially head injuries, at the high school level.
Oregon leads the way
Oregon has been a leader in the movement for some time. The National Federation of High School Associations has only had a sports medicine advisory committee since 1996; Oregon has had one since the ’70s.
“As time went on, the (OSAA sports medicine advisory committee) has really advocated the safety point as best we can,” Koester said. “There will always be risks. We can’t eliminate risks, so it’s about minimization.”
As far as concussions go, Oregon has been proactive, even in professional sports.
“Oregon was the first state, including NFL, FIFA, NHL, to have stringent rules,” Koester said. “It was the first to disallow return to play on the same day (for players suffering concussion symptoms) in 2007.”
And those rules essentially became Oregon state law. Max’s Law requires all high school coaches, whether freshmen, junior varsity, varsity, paid or volunteer, to undergo annual training on how to recognize concussion symptoms. They are told to remove an athlete suspected of suffering a concussion from competition. The athlete must be evaluated by properly trained medical personnel and cannot return to practice or play until obtaining a medical release.
Read the signs
“These concussion symptoms may not be apparent initially; either after the game in the locker room or Monday morning in the classroom,” Koester said. “Be aware of signs and symptoms, they can vary, and not everybody is hit hard and loopy.”
Just ask Rose. The first time he had a concussion, he was just a little dazed, but had the presence of mind to know he wanted to keep playing.
And now he’s sidelined from contact sports for good, but he’s still hoping to play baseball or basketball. Hoping.
More tests are scheduled for late February to determine just how much activity Rose will be able to handle once he has healed a little. For now, he can’t even go bowling and the doctor even advised him to be careful dancing.
“Don’t take it lightly,” Rose said. “It’s a big thing. If you get one, don’t let it go by. Make sure you let people know you are hurting. I kept my first couple (concussions) a secret because I wanted to play.
“I regret that decision.”