Sports Medicine

Concussions: Are we doing enough to protect athletes?

Kaplan junior quarterback Jade Herpin remembers little about the devastating concussion he suffered against Lafayette High in the first week of last season.

Kaplan coach Tank Lotief said Herpin rolled out to his left, started to go out of bounds, and was hit by a Lions player.

“I really didn’t see anything,” Herpin said, “but I felt the hit, and when I hit the ground my head hit against the track.”

Herpin said the last thing he remembered from that night was trying to get up off the ground and not being able to.

After that it gets a little hazy.

“He didn’t get knocked out, he wasn’t unconscious,” Lotief said. “But he had what we call spaghetti legs. He wasn’t walking away from that on his own.”

Herpin was stretchered off the field and transported to the hospital in an ambulance, starting the process of one of the most confusing, scary and difficult times of his life.

With summer workouts in full swing, concussions are a serious danger for student-athletes participating in football this season.

And for many experts, the main problem preventing and treating concussions is that the athletes don’t know enough to protect themselves from potentially permanent damage.

What is a concussion?

Dr. Gregory Stewart has been front and center in concussion research since 1987.

Stewart, the co-director of the Tulane Sports Medicine Program, is director of the Louisiana Sports Medicine Society and sits on the Sports Medicine Committee at LSU.

Starting in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s Stewart had a research grant to study mild traumatic brain injuries, i.e. concussions, in high school athletes. He was also part of the group that passed Louisiana’s “concussion law” in 2011.

Stewart said the biggest challenge regarding athlete concussions is educating parents, coaches and especially student athletes about what exactly a concussion is and then educating new people every year on the same subject.

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