BOISE-- Concussions have been a hot topic of discussion across the U.S. over the last decade among doctors, especially those injuries that affect young athletes. The reason for concern is the potential seriousness that a concussion can have on a young person, especially when it goes untreated and the athlete is allowed to compete before fully recovering.
"Second impact syndrome is when somebody has a second concussion and the first one hasn't healed,” said Kristi Pardue of the Elks Rehab Hospital outpatient brain injury program. “If we haven't allowed the brain time to heal, then it can result in a much more severe brain injury, even death.”
The possible serious side effects of second impact syndrome has prompted many states to enact laws that do not allow young athletes to return to competition until they have been checked out and cleared by proper health officials. However, Idaho currently does not have a similar law on the books for young athletes. That will change if one group can get backing in the state legislature this year.
The group is planning to propose a bill that will call for more education on concussions in Idaho schools. It would also put into place guidelines for the way high school teams deal with athletes that show signs or symptoms of a concussion. Former Boise State football player Matt Kaiserman is a part of that group, and knows firsthand what it is like to suffer from a serious concussion.
In 2010, Kaiserman received a concussion on a head-jarring block that knocked him unconscious.
“I was running down field, and took a blindside hit, and woke up a few minutes later,” Kaiserman recalled.
The serious injury kept him from doing any physical activities for months. After setbacks due to the injury, Kaiserman met with his wife, coaches, and physicians, and decided to retire from the game of football.
It was after coming to that decision that Kaiserman realized that he wanted to take his experience with concussions, and do something to help others.
“There's a part of me that always wanted to do something for the greater good. I can play from personal experience in high school, where I had a couple of concussions that I think went undiagnosed because I simply wasn't educated on the issue. I think parents and athletes, as well as even coaches, can learn a lot from this education that we are trying to provide.”
Kaiserman decided to team up with the group of physicians that want to do something to change the awareness of head injuries to young athletes in Idaho. Kaiserman is now interning with Galatin Public Affairs, and is involved in proposing a bill to the state legislature that will change the way concussions are dealt with on the high school playing fields.
“I think first and foremost that parents and athletes need to understand that I'm not trying, we're not trying, this effort is not trying to reshape the game in any way,” Kaiserman said. “ I think that sports were meant to be played rough, that's the way that it ought to be. We need to understand that there is a lot to learn from sports. But we also need to start rethinking that cultural aspect of these games and realize that in no circumstance is a game ever supposed to come before a child's health.”
That sentiment is being echoed among many high school coaches in the state as well.
“I understand safety. We want, as coaches and parents, our kids to be safe,” Borah High School head football coach Darren Corpus said. “I think it's the responsibility of the parent to understand their son or their daughter in the activities that they participate in, there's no doubt about that. That is their responsibility. Once the child or the athlete comes to the field, it's the coach's responsibility to maintain what that child has learned at home or what's been learned through the measures that are put out there.”
Which is what Kaiserman says he would like to see more of; measures and information in place so that other young athletes can be more informed, and perhaps avoid going through what he went through.
“Had I had the where-with-all back then, I would have been much more inclined to be more safer. I'm a Boise State athlete, a former Boise State athlete. I'm a local guy. I found my way onto the blue turf, I played in the Fiesta Bowl. And I can say with absolute certainty that none of that is worth risking my life or you child's life over.”
Kaiserman and his group are currently working with advocates to re-write the language of the proposed bill. It will be proposed to the House of Representatives State Affairs Committee in the near future.