There is always a risk when participating in athletics that something could go wrong and an athlete could sustain a concussion or another serious injury, Emily Link, Wartburg’s assistant athletic trainer, said.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury after getting a bump or jolt to the head.
Concussions can also occur when something happens that causes your body to move quickly back and forth.
Wartburg has a very strict policy on concussions. At each team’s preseason meeting, the trainers explain what a concussion is and what the signs and symptoms are.
Link added that all athletes have to sign a petition saying they understand what a concussion is and that they are responsible for telling their athletic trainers when something is wrong.
“I’d say we have a pretty good policy. I say our coaches do a really good job here of protecting our athletes and making sure that they don’t put them in instances that something is going to happen,” Link said.
Concussions and the damage they can cause have become a major point of discussion throughout the last year and a half, especially in professional sports, such as the NFL.
Former NFL players have sued the league for not informing them on possible brain damage they could sustain from playing football.
“I do think the position has a lot to do with it. I played safety when I had mine. One of a safety’s responsibilities on the field is to help stop the run along with the linebackers,” Greg Focht, a Wartburg football player, said.
“This means going against running backs, fullbacks, and linemen running at you. There is definitely more contact on specific positions.”
Football is not the only sport where athletes get concussions; cheerleaders can get them too.
Haley Melz is a cheerleader at Wartburg who has reached the maximum number of seven concussions allowed by the NCAA. If she gets another, she will no longer be eligible to participate.
Melz said concussion risks for cheerleaders are very high because they can be hit while catching one another or by being dropped.
“Concussions are a lot more serious than they get credit for,” Melz said.
“My most recent concussion not only took me out of physical activity, but I was also unable to do a variety of mental activities, which impacted my schoolwork and options for entertainment.”
At Wartburg, athletes have to go through an extensive process in order to be cleared after sustaining a concussion.
Link said symptoms are monitored every day and once they are symptom-free for 24 hours, they have to complete the five stages of activity to return to play.
Stages one and two are bike rides of different intensities, stage three is a sprint workout, stage four is a non-contact practice and stage five is a contact practice.
“For every single one of those stages, we test symptoms before and we test symptoms after,” Link said. “Once they get cleared with that and without symptoms returning, they are cleared to play by both me and by the physician that I used.”
Both Melz and Focht agreed that even with injuries, athletes aren’t going to stop doing what they love.
“We experience risks with everything we do, and we learn how to avoid them and keep living. I feel like it’s the same with sports and risk of injury,” Melz said.
“I do think, however, that it is important that athletes know when to stop, and know when things get too serious — when they could impact the rest of their life.”