Mind Games


EXAMINING THE SLOPES Sophomore Kaitlin prepares for her upcoming run while skiing in Vail, Colo.


I’ve just taken “one too many soccer balls to the head. I’ll be fine.” Too often this is the rationalization of concussion victims. While many of Hockaday’s toughest athletes ignore the pain for the love of the sport, injuries sustained during a practice or game can have horrible effects on life off the field.

Freak accidents involving concussions have blazoned across national headlines: “Football Player’s Death Points to Screening Limits” and “Athlete Still Experiencing Concussion Symptoms” Many student athletes do not believe that these bizarre stories could ever happen to them, especially because the symptoms (nausea, headaches, sensitivity to noise, difficulty concentrating) can be so minor. But they carry major consequences and signs may not always be apparent.

Sophomore Kaitlin recently suffered a concussion after a skiing accident last spring break in Vail, Colo. even while wearing a helmet, which resulted in a week and a half of headaches.

“The ski patrol did some vision tests and asked me to move different parts of my body to make sure that nothing else was hurt,” and luckily, caught the concussion.

Seventh grader Ilana has a different story. One of many players on her club soccer team to have suffered a concussion (before Ilana, the team had already reported four), endured two concussions in a matter of weeks. recalls not noticing her concussion on impact or during the game even after her coach told her to continue playing in the game.

Ilana finally went to the doctor after five days of chronic headaches. A few days later after being cleared for her next game, Ilana suffered another concussion, agreeing to take the standard concussion test after the injury (though it was not at Hockaday). An example of a standard test includes recognizing both words and lines to check the athlete’s short term memory.

Research done by the New York Times has shown that 75% of all concussions sustained in high school football go unnoticed and unchecked, just like Ilana’s case, even when most teams have their own trainers or medical team on call.

In sports without immediate medical assistance on site, it becomes the responsibility of the team, coaches, and parents to keep a watchful eye for concussed athletes. But how can these teammates watch for warning signs without having been provided the right information?

When asked if Hockaday athletes knew enough about the dangers of concussions, Coach Olson said, “Absolutely not.  We are doing what we can to make them aware, but certainly more could be done to inform the larger community.”

Coach Olson would like to start these base line tests for every sport in Upper School. Each athlete would have their scores recorded on a computer that would ensure their safety if a concussion occurred later in the athletic season. The test would be taken again for release. Olson says, “I think every school should have it.”

While the nation has a long way to go in protecting student and professional athletes, progress has been recently made in Texas, and several attempts at a bill have been circling the Texas House and Senate. It will aim towards establishing a standard protocol for athletes returning back to practice after sustaining a concussion.

The standard concussion tests would be able to catch concussions early, decreasing the recovery time after addressing the symptoms, and athletes would be able to return to their sports sooner.

Kaitlin adds, “Skiing is my favorite sport, and sometimes, these things happen. I will continue to do everything I’ve done in the past. I can’t allow this to stop me from doing what I love.”