March 30, 2015

Protecting the Brain

by Cecil Harris
Chris Armas ’94

Chris Armas ’94
Photo Credit: Byron Hetzler, USA TODAY Sports. ©‎2007 Byron Hetzler

Despite the best efforts of performance specialists, athletic trainers and coaches, athletes are still susceptible to concussions—brain injuries that, in some cases, heal in a few days, but in others, linger long enough to imperil careers.

“One thing I’m conscious of is how much air they put in the ball—it’s easy to overinflate a soccer ball,” said Chris Armas ’94, a former star in Major League Soccer and a member of the Adelphi University Athletics Hall of Fame who coached the Adelphi women’s soccer team from 2011 to 2014. “If the ball’s overinflated, some of the little head traumas that happen during a match will become bigger problems.”

Fortunately for athletes, concussion protocol has changed for the better. Youth coaches are required to have concussion certification from the National Federation of State High School Associations. And sports leagues are making more of an effort to protect the athlete, too.

Student-athletes at Adelphi are given memory tests before the season to obtain a baseline score. If a player sustains a head injury in season, the same tests are done and the scores compared to assess the extent of the injury. If a player who sustains a concussion is symptom-free for seven days, then he or she can begin light jogging or ride an exercise bike. Only after a battery of tests is a concussed athlete medically cleared to return, usually after 10 days.

That’s not how it used to be. “Years ago, when an athlete suffered a concussion, the trainer came out with smelling salts,” said Dan Bedard, M.A., a clinical assistant professor in sport management at Adelphi and a former pro hockey goalie in France and Sweden. “Today, we understand that to use smelling salt to wake up an athlete is a clear sign that he should not be playing because he had been knocked out. If you’re in a car accident and you’ve been knocked out, nobody’s going to say, ‘Hey, get back in that car and drive home.’”

This piece is excerpted from AU VU, Spring 2015 issue. The full feature story will be printed in May 2015. 
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