Concussions affecting WC athletes

Friday, November 22, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. (Lance Conrad)-- Concussions are a part of everyday life and more so when it comes to football.  For NFL players who get paid millions of dollars and many don't consider the risks of what can happen after their career ends.  When it comes to college football for students at Westminster College, is the risk of brain damage worth the reward of four years of football.

You can click here to listen to the entire story from reporter Lance Conrad. 

Head on Collision
A couple of helmets from the Titan football squad reveal how brutal the game can be for the players.

I spoke with Shaun Toomey who is the head athletic trainer at Westminster to discuss what exactly happens with a concussion along with some players' reactions. Toomey gives a little background knowledge of what a concussion is and how it occurs. 

"A concussion is trauma to the brain," he said.  "Usually caused by a blow to the head or body which causes movement of the brain inside the skull."

Put me in coach
Reporter Lance Conrad trying on a Titan football helmet.  Just getting myself ready for next year by trying on some helmets.

Sophomore receiver Cody Alward is one of eight players to receive a concussion this football season.  He describes how his concussion occurred in a game against Hiram.

"We were playing Hiram and I caught the ball in the flat," Alward said.  "I started running up the field and I got hit in the back of the head by helmet to helmet contact. I didn't know where I was at.  I was looking down at the ground and I didn't know what was going on."

I asked Toomey if there was any type of scale that determines the grade of each concussion.  Even though there is no one specific scale, doctors determine how bad the concussion on a patient by patient basis.  He does however talk about how to tell with the common symptoms. 

"The things we often see are headache, altered level of consciousness, change in alert of the person, dizziness, difficulty focusing, and difficulty with memory recall."

Along with the symptoms Toomey mentioned, sophomore defensive back Jake Dindak lists some of the other problems he experienced after receiving his concussion during a scrimmage this season. 

"Definitely constant headaches, the headaches last about two to three days that night and the day after.  Definitely a lot of fuzziness, I couldn't concentrate on homework especially with computers."

After finding out the number of concussions happening in just one season, I asked Toomey about if concussions were life threatening to the players and how to handle them. 

"If it is a situation where symptoms are allowed to persist or if a person tries to remain highly active without a chance to recover then yes."

As for continuing football, Alward only suffering his second concussion which only sidelining him for two weeks feels that he is still mentally able to continue. 

"At first I was a little hesitate about it, but after I got back in the groove of things and started playing again I got more comfortable again."

On the other hand Dindak suffering six concussions throughout his career with one before his senior year of high school spending a week in the hospital with a brain bleed, coming back this season wasn't so easy for him.

"During those six weeks I was trying to figure out what exactly was wrong and what was going on," Dindak said. " I was talking to my parents a lot, would talk to my dad an hour every night on the phone just deciding what the best thing to do here was.  And it definitely crossed my mind a few times that maybe it was time to call it quits."

I myself have dealt with two concussions within the past three years, one of them during a baseball game.  It is hard to walk back out on the field for the first time after the incident and not be overly cautious. 

But in the end, Tommey states that with awareness and the right treatment each player should eventually be able to return to the field. 

"Each one is unique, and it is important for the person to undergo recovery process before trying to get back into all activities otherwise the recovery will be slowed down," Tomey explained. "The change in brain chemistry that occurs with a concussion doesn't have a chance to restore and return to normal activity if the person stays highly active."

As for the future of Titan Football, with having these concussions be treated and resolved with no complications, the future looks bright with these two sophomores returning for their junior year next fall. 


Click image to enlarge.

Before the Game

A clean Westminster helmet before the game begins


Cody Alward catching passes before the game.


Jake Dindak relaxes after the game.