PARENTING – July 2012 issue
BY STACEY HATTON
It was just another game for Madison Rebel, a fifteen year-old Olathe, KS girl who was playing post for the team “KC and One.” In the middle of the game, as she was going up for what seemed like a normal rebound, a girl undercut her, her legs went straight up in the air, and she dropped head first on the hard woods. In an instant, her promising basketball career came to a devastating halt on October 21, 2011.
Just hearing what happened to her in the following days, it is unreal to imagine that she stood up after that hit, didn’t lose consciousness and actually finished the game. “People think that because you have a concussion, you have to have passed out cold; but that’s not true,” Madison shared. So what is a concussion or brain injury then?
The definition of a concussion is a “temporary loss of normal brain function,” lists Nemours Foundation – one of the nation’s largest children’s health systems. “Concussions and other brain injuries are fairly common. About every 21 seconds, someone in the United States has a serious brain injury.” After all concussive symptoms have resolved and the neurological exam is normal, the diagnosis can be made:
Simple concussions have symptoms that resolve in 7-10 days and Complex concussions have persistent symptoms which last longer than 7-10 days. If the person loses consciousness for more than 1 minute or has a seizure at the time of the injury it is automatically in this category. Also, if a previous concussion has ever occurred, an automatic diagnosis of “complex concussion” is given. This more serious, but rare condition is called second impact syndrome.
Nemours states, “Anyone who sustains a head injury should stop participating and be removed from the activity or sport. Even without a loss of consciousness, it’s important to watch for symptoms of a concussion.”
Common initial symptoms: (Nemours)
- a change in level of alertness
- extreme sleepiness
- a bad headache
- repeated vomiting
Symptoms for an immediate emergency room visit:
- Loss of consciousness
- One pupil is dilated more than in the other eye
- Convulsions or seizures
- Slurred speech
- Confusion, restlessness, or agitation
Madison’s Following Days
Carla Rebel (Madison’s mother) said, “Madison’s symptoms didn’t start until the next day.” Carla lovingly prods her daughter to remember the symptoms so they would be accurate – for Madison’s details are heartbreaking for any parent to hear, let alone speak of. “I was dizzy until my eyes blacked out. I had the worst headache I’ve ever had,” said Madison. “Very nauseous for a couple of days, but I never threw up. I was sensitive to light and sound. Basically I lived in a dark hole.” She continued, “Then about two days after (the concussion), my body started to tingle, especially my arms and legs and I was super tired – sleeping all the time, but I kept waking up with night traumas.”
Due to Madison’s condition, she was unable to attend school. First she missed a week, and then resumed with half-days. In addition, Madison developed memory problems and couldn’t focus well in school. The doctors recommended to the Rebel family that sleep was essential for healing her brain injury, so Madison started her school day at “third hour” and went to the end of the day. Carla said Olathe East has been excellent in accommodating her daughter with resources, testing assistance and working with her schedule.
The most horrific part of this story is Madison has had a constant headache for seven months. It has never ceased. This injury has taken a straight “A” student, basketball star and benched her old life. “It stripped me of my identity,” said Madison. “Everything was taken away from me.” That is until she started meeting other kids at her school who suffered from the same condition. One of her confidantes acquired her brain injury while playing volleyball and another friend was a football player. “It’s good to have other people to talk to about this.” Carla says she compares stories and doctor’s notes with one of the other friend’s mom for support.
Prevention of Re-Injury
Madison’s team of specialists has given her the thumbs up to return to basketball. According to her doctors, the exercise should help her injury, not harm it at this point. But as a parent, how do you not worry she won’t reinjure her brain in a sport which is so active? She has switched to a different basketball position, a forward, so she isn’t “where all the pushing and shoving is.” She also takes it easier when she needs to. Madison says the running seems to make her feel better, so she is happy she has returned to the sport she loves and missed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Protection offers, “To help ensure the health and safety of young athletes, CDC developed the Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports initiative to offer information about concussions to coaches, parents, and athletes involved in youth sports. The Heads Up initiative provides important information on preventing, recognizing, and responding to a concussion.” For more information visit: www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html.
© 2012 Stacey Hatton. All rights reserved.