Archie's Message of the Month

Head Injury and Concussion Safety

The smell of the field, the roar from the band, the weight of your shoulder pads, the sight of the life-size, hand-painted banner in your team’s colors - stretched across the goalpost: these are all beloved memories of the gridiron rite of passage so many of us reveled in as youngsters. The lucky ones enjoyed the tradition throughout their collegiate tenure, and the truly blessed continued suiting up into their adult years.

Football is a tradition many of us hold dear here in South Louisiana, whether as former players, passionate fans or both. However, emerging information about the long-term risk of head trauma is giving many parents and athletes pause, including myself.

Concussions are not limited to either football players or male athletes. In any contact sport, including basketball and soccer, head injuries can occur. Some scientific studies suggest these injuries in female athletes take longer to heal than in male athletes. As a father and grandfather, I take that seriously. As a former NFL quarterback, I also want those coming after me to have the opportunity to experience the same joy and personal development that I did on the field of athletic competition. It’s a delicate balance, but one that I believe can be achieved with foresight, planning and honest discourse.

We can no longer address head trauma as we once did, at any level of sport. One of the many reasons that I’m proud to now be a part of the Thibodaux Regional Medical Center family is the amazing work that the Sports Medicine team is doing to prevent head injuries, and to quickly and accurately diagnose the ones that can’t be prevented, to prevent long-term harm.

I have become very familiar with the professionalism and expertise demonstrated by the staff of the Sports Medicine Center of Thibodaux Regional as a result of our annual trek to Thibodaux to host our summer football camp. The Manning Passing Academy is a camp that I started with my sons: Cooper, Peyton and Eli. Each year we welcome twelve-hundred high school-aged campers to the fields of Nicholls State to hone their athletic skills. Combined with coaches, counselors and staff, we have over fifteen-hundred individuals working and playing in the unrelenting South Louisiana heat and humidity. The athletic trainers are responsible for injury prevention and management, weather monitoring, and, most importantly, hydration. This past summer, we had only one individual suffer from a heat-related illness. That proves to me the preparation and dedication of the sports medicine staff.

Knee, elbow and shoulder injuries in the field of play are often easy to diagnose, in the sense that one can usually physically see that there is something abnormal happening to the affected area. That isn’t the case with the brain, unless specific measures are utilized. An athlete with a normal CT or MRI scan can still be diagnosed with a concussion, because function can be impaired even if the structure remains intact.

This is where Thibodaux Regional Health System becomes such a valuable player in the mission to keep athletes safe. The Sports Medicine team is highly trained in recognizing subtle, yet tell-tale symptoms that athletes may have trouble verbalizing when injured. Thibodaux Regional is also home to state-of-the-art testing technology that gives coaches and parents added peace of mind that they can ascertain exactly where a person is in the healing process, which is also something that can’t be verbalized by any athlete, regardless of age. This information is imperative in ensuring a complete recovery: returning to the field of competition too soon can turn a small, treatable injury into a lingering, serious issue. Most importantly, the experts at Thibodaux Regional Medical Center have devised specific guidelines that allow for an efficient but safe return-to-play.

It’s crucial that parents and athletes be willing to take two steps. First, educate yourselves about the latest information in head trauma, for all athletes, at any level. Secondly, find a doctor that you trust to work with and always answer his or her questions honestly. Thibodaux Regional boasts some of the best in the business.

Many programs now work with certified athletic trainers. For instance, Thibodaux Regional is partnered with Nicholls State University to provide the best care for our all of the collegiate athletes who call themselves Colonels. If your child’s athletic program enjoys a similar partnership, make sure you get to know the care-givers dedicated to keeping your child safe. If you need to identify an expert, give the Sports Medicine Center of Thibodaux Regional a call at 985-493-4502.

The fear of head trauma incurred during sporting events doesn’t need to keep you or your child on the sidelines, as long as you’re armed with the latest information, a willingness to proactively address the situation and a qualified physician to help you navigate the injury and recovery.