Sports participation has become a significant part of our youth’s adolescent years and for some it continues into their adult years.
The most popular sports in our area include football, baseball, softball, basketball and soccer, which are all considered contact sports. With contact sports come injuries. In the last few years there has been a concentrated effort by the sports medicine profession to bring more awareness and education of the dangers and symptoms of concussions to players, coaches and parents.
Athletes in the Laurel-Jones County area do not have to go out of the county to find a qualified team of professionals to call on when an injury does occur. The South Central Sports Medicine team of orthopedic surgeons, athletic trainers, physical therapists and neurologists provides the comprehensive care needed for athletes at all levels in Laurel-Jones County and surrounding areas.
Medical director and orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Derrick Burgess is the leader of the South Central Sports Medicine team. Neurologist Dr. Gulshan Oberoi is a member of the team and provides the medical expertise needed in dealing with concussions.
“Concussion is a common injury in contact sports medicine,” said Oberoi. “Time is of the essence in a lot of cases. Ninety-five percent or more of these kids do extremely well, because the brain is in such a state that it has a very high potential of recovering. It’s just those selected few that we have to be very careful and timely in our diagnostic evaluation.”
Oberoi said some of the symptoms of a concussion include dizziness, headache, confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, blurred vision, weakness on one side or the other, and/or slurred speech. He added that a sudden change in behavior after the initial injury is a positive sign the individual needs to be evaluated.
“Many times a kid will be sent to my office and I will ask him if he had any sort of injury. They will reply ‘No, I just got hit in the head at football practice,’” explained Oberoi.
Oberoi stressed the importance of having an immediate evaluation should any of these signs appear. He said depending on the injury location and symptoms, a CT scan or an MRI of the brain may be needed to make sure there is no hemorrhage or bleeding at the site of the injury.
“Usually symptoms will appear in the first two to four weeks,” said Oberoi, “but in certain cases, it can happen later on and persist for up to three or four months and even later in certain cases.”
He added that headaches tend to linger on a little longer and are treated depending upon the frequency and location.
“These are called post-concussion headaches. The symptoms get better over time, but some patients have to be put on a preventive medication for the headaches.”
Oberoi said with a full diagnostic department at South Central, they are able to meet the needs of a majority of concussion injuries suffered in this area.
Burgess explained the importance of educating the parents, coaches and players in recognizing the symptoms of a concussion.
“It’s not necessarily my job to be the person to diagnose a concussion, especially on the sidelines,” noted Burgess. “I tell the players to be aware of anything they see that looks abnormal.”
For example, players should be aware of a teammate that doesn’t seem to be all there in a huddle or just can’t seem to understand the play. Or maybe the teammate makes a mistake and falls apart and can’t seem to collect himself as normal.
“Another thing we do is impact testing,” said Burgess. “This is a neurocognitive test that is administered to all our players preseason so we get their base line. If they’re injured, we get a test afterwards to compare to it. That is one tool that we use.”
Burgess added that he has taken educating the sports community in the Jones County area a step further by doing seminars on how to diagnosis concussion for the Youth League coaches, which are not regulated by MHSAA as the high school athletics are.
“With the younger kids, severity of the concussion can be more,” stated Burgess. “The length of the symptoms staying around has been longer, especially with kids who may have ADHD or some behavioral problems, and the symptoms are more severe.”
Burgess said the entire team communicates with each other about individual athletes. They know the schools and they know the players. Their best interest is the welfare of the individual and getting them back to play. There is a certified athletic trainer from South Central Medicine assigned to each school in Jones County as well as Laurel High School and Stringer.
In addition, South Central’s EMServ Ambulance Service provides an ambulance (free of charge) with an emergency medical team on the sideline of each school during football season. This proved to be lifesaving during the first week of the football season this year at West Jones High School for one of the referees.
In addition to providing certified athletic trainers at each school, South Central Sports Medicine offers a free Saturday Morning Injury Clinic.
The team of physical therapists and trainers, who in many cases is the same person, is on hand to assist the athletes.
“Here at South Central Sports Medicine we have trainers, therapists, a strength and conditioning coach, physicians, mid-level providers, and consultants such as Dr. Oberoi,” stated Burgess. “We have all the things you need in our community to rehabilitate an athlete. You don’t have to take them outside of their hometown.”
“Concussions are very serious,” exclaimed Burgess, “they can be a life changing injury, and we take it very serious. We feel that it is more important for a kid to miss a game than to forever alter their future.”