The Concussion Awareness Club won’t hit students over the head with information, but they are trying to knock some sense into the community.
Seniors Lindsay Herschfeld and Lawson Hamilton created the club to educate the school community and provide a support system for those suffering from concussions.
Many concussions go undiagnosed because it’s difficult for coaches to pay attention to individuals and all the injuries they sustain, Herschfeld said. The club aims to reverse this mentality and give students the information they need to be able to identify the symptoms themselves.
“We want to try and help kids avoid further hurting their brain if they’re concussed,” said vice president Patrick Hisle, who’s had three concussions.
Concussions are a “silent epidemic” that affect approximately 200,000 athletes every year, 65 percent of whom are under the age of 18, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. To lower this percentage, the club will work directly with students, Hamilton said.
“People should know how to correctly check and tackle, he said. “They need to be aware of the safety of others.”
Hamilton got a concussion eight months ago during a hockey game and is still recuperating.
“In the case of my hockey incident the person didn’t have any awareness of my safety and just came up and hit me straight in the head,” he said.
The club is also advocating for an athletic trainer in Montgomery County, the only Maryland county without one. Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating sport related injuries, so they would be useful even outside of concussion-related problems, Herschfeld said.
Whitman is already making big strides in the concussion arena by making Baseline testing a mandatory prerequisite for players before the start of every sport season. After a player recovers from a concussion, they take another test and a doctor compares the results to the original. This is to ensure cognitive function is normal and the brain is completely healed.
Herschfeld has had two concussions in the past two years from basketball. Both Herchfeld and Hamilton tried to rush their respective recoveries and return to sport and school activities too early, but said this delayed their recovery.
41 percent of student athletes return to sports prematurely, which can leave them susceptible to further problems, the Center for Injury Research and Policy said. The most serious conditions can result in Second Impact Syndrome, a frequently fatal condition caused by brain swelling. Returning to sports can cause another concussion, which doesn’t always come from a hit to the head.
“If you fall hard and your head snaps back a little you can get one,” Herschfeld said. “It’s just a shaking of your brain.”
Over the past year, principal Alan Goodwin has sent home numerous letters to parents and sponsored a concussion seminar to raise public awareness. He hopes the club will clear up misconceptions people commonly have about concussions and teach affected students the proper way to handle them.
“Students often put themselves in danger by going back into sport activities too soon,” Goodwin said. “They’re missing a lot of school work and are not quite sure what to do about that.”
Concussions can be a source of isolation for many students because they can’t go to school or participate in sports.
“It’s not like a broken arm; people don’t realize you’re still suffering,” Hamiliton said.
The club wants to reach out to such students by having previously affected students provide their own insight and be a source of comfort, Herschfeld said.
“A lot of people came up to me during clubs night and were like ‘I got a concussion too,’ Herschfeld said. “We share our experiences; it’s kind of like a group. We bond over that.”