Dismissive 'got your bell rung' no longer apt

If you were a parent or a coach, if you were there Tuesday night at The Commons on the SSU campus, your head would have hurt as you listened to the experts talk about concussions. The list of symptoms is long. The list of sports in which a concussion can occur is even longer (all of them). The list of the tragic after-effects from an untreated concussion would numb the brain just by their mere recitation.

That's why anyone who cares about the health of their kid, or of their teammate, or of their friend, or of their player must start their learning curve now because the phrase "he got his bell rung" has morphed into something far more complicated than that dismissive statement. A 10-page instructional concussion pamphlet was given to the approximately 70 people in attendance. It was, by the way, a beginner's pamphlet.

"Only 10 percent of all concussions result in the loss of consciousness," said SRJC's head athletic trainer Monica Ohkubo, one of a five-member panel that discussed the recognition, prevention and response to concussions.

How's that for a complicated starting point?

And as a point of comparison, how does that compare to what happened to Robert Nied in 1989? He was a tight end for his Irvine high school football team. Nied was laid out on a hit, put an ice pack on his achy head and kept playing, didn't even miss a practice the next week. Nied didn't tell a soul of his pain.

"It wasn't until I was in med school that I diagnosed it as a concussion," said Robert, now Dr. Robert Nied, a sports medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente.

Yes, of course, for anyone who has even paid even a casual glance at the sports pages in the last year or so, the topic of concussions is not new. With lawsuits against the NFL by former players, with player suicides and stories of dementia, violent mood swings and homelessness, the discussion of brain trauma in sports has been gaining traction. That's the unique nature of concussions. Public discourse has become more public, not less.

Congressman Mike Thompson is a Vietnam veteran who for years has been keenly interested in the care and treatment of soldiers who have served in combat. Along this path, Thompson became aware of brain injuries in the NFL, in particular by getting to know an ex-NFL player from his hometown of San Diego. Steve Hendrickson was a star at Cal and played seven seasons in the NFL with the 49ers and Chargers.

"Steve is in a bad way," Thompson said. "He has dementia. He is struggling."

Thompson found a commonality in brain trauma, that whether it be from war or football or soccer or hockey or baseball, it needed to be addressed. And so Thompson expanded his umbrella of concern and influence. His office called the athletic trainers at SSU and SRJC to set up Tuesday night's panel discussion. In mid-January Thompson will be speaking to the NFL on the issue.

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