When it comes to concussions, best to play it safe
on November 13, 2009
A physician has delayed clearing Cal running back Jahvid Best’s return to the team after crashing head-first into the end zone and sustaining his second concussion in two weeks Saturday. His season and career may be in doubt.
Suffering a concussion is bad, but the symptoms worsen with each successive severe blow to the head. According to a recent study cited by USA Today, 40.5 percent of high school athletes return to the field prematurely after suffering a concussion, and 16 percent of high school football players reported returning to play the same day they had been knocked unconscious.
Best’s former coach at Richmond’s Salesian High, Chad Nightingale, has seen his fair share of punch-drunk players in his 17 years at the school. He keeps a trainer on the sideline and admits to having no medical training himself. Still, he said it should take more than a doctor’s diagnosis for an athlete to return to action after a concussion.
Those close to a player need to make the call, too.
“Coaches, parents, teachers know a player’s personality,” Nightingale said. “It goes beyond a doctor evaluating a player.”
Last season, Nightingale had a player suffer a concussion during a game.
“It was different symptomology than (Best),” Nightingale said. “He wasn’t knocked out, but he had no recollection of the past week. The kid was asking bizarre questions.”
Nightingale sent the player to a doctor, and he was cleared to play within two weeks.
Nevertheless, Nightingale wouldn’t let him back on the field. This was the second concussion for the player – he suffered one before high school.
Nightingale said he always has to err on the side of caution with high school players, a practice which is hardly the case on the pro and college level. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman famously suffered at least 10 concussions in his playing days that eventually forced him to retire.
Best is no doubt pondering his football future this week, and has not returned to class. Nightingale said he visited Best at home earlier this week, and said the player was doing well. Nightingale said Best is focused on recovering from the injury and not on when he’ll return to the field.
Best’s coaches, teammates, friends and family will know when that time comes, Nightingale said.
“The main thing is to make sure he’s all there,” he said.
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