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Athletic department tries to stay in front of head injuries

Mal Meston, Sports Editor

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In the technological world today, people are becoming more and more aware of contact sports, specifically concussions and the repercussions that come with them.

And Shores is no different.

At the beginning of the school year, all freshmen athletes are required to take a baseline impact concussion test that determines what levels the athlete’s brain is at before a concussion occurs.

Additionally, a second test is also given at the beginning of the junior year.

“I don’t know if this is the medical approach or not, but concussion injuries are brain injuries in the way that one might have an ankle injury either minor or major,” athletic director Ryan Portenga said. “There are also minor and major concussions as well. There are times when an athlete could pass the impact testing on a Friday or Sunday and be good to go on the following Friday. But it all depends on the person along with the factors.”

All Shores coaches are now required to take a concussion awareness course.

This not only helps the athletes if injured but also the coaches to be prepared if a concussion ever occurs during their season.

In the past, Portenga said that while concussions may have happened, they were not talked about.

People weren’t aware of the dangers or the impact concussions can prevail on athletes.

“I played football my entire high school career,” Portenga said. “I went to WMC but co-oped with the North Muskegon football team. I graduated in 2001, and in those four years, I never even heard the word concussion, let alone ever hear of anyone sitting out due to a concussion.”

Athletic trainer Beth Lawrence said she deals with all types of sport related injuries, including concussions, for all of the sports at Shores.

This past varsity football season, while four players received a concussion, Lawrence said there are many precautions that the coaching staff takes, including teaching proper techniques and providing proper equipment.

“Football teaches heads up tackling, which helps prevent from spinal injuries but also helps protect your head,” Lawrence said. “In football, there are rules against head contact when tackling, which again tries to help protect head injuries. Properly fitted helmets is a big part of trying to reduce head injuries as well. Properly fitted mouth guards not only protect your teeth but also can help to protect against head injuries because the forces that can be absorbed in the mouth guard when contact is made rather than distributing those forces up into the skull.”

While concussions weren’t mentioned a lot in the early 2000s, they are now mentioned and widely acknowledged by all sports and most people.

Injury prevention is also well known by all contact sports.

“There is no way to avoid concussions. Just like in life, people trip and fall, slip down the stairs or even get involved in car accident. These are all accidents and called accidents for a reason,” Portenga said. “No injury in sports is 100 percent preventable. It ranges from ACL tears, to ankle injuries, to elbow issues, to AC joints and to concussions. There are ways to limit the damages, but there is no injury that is avoidable. It’s an accident for a reason.”

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