In Michigan,as many as 10% of high school athletes will suffer a concussion.
TEACHER, COMPETITIVE &
SIDELINE CHEER COACH
Paw Paw High School
Concussions in cheerleading are fairly common. We throw people.
Paw Paw High School
She said when she came home, “I got hit in the head a couple of times. It’s not a big deal.”
The University of Michigan Concussion Center is partnering with the Michigan High School Athletics Association (MHSAA) to ensure that every high school coach, parent and athlete in Michigan learns about concussion prevention and treatment.
10 years ago, I don’t think we talked that much about it.
HEAD FOOTBALL COACH
St. Joseph High School
Coaches weren’t trained as well.
It was a toughness thing, it’s a toughness sport.
So if you got hit and, and maybe you’re a little woozy, “Aw, suck it up, you’re okay.”
It was just, “You got your bell rung, you got the wind knocked out of ya,”
and nobody really knew what was happening inside of the head.
We’re not medical experts. Thankfully, very early on we got connected here with the University of Michigan and their Concussion Center team.
It’s resulted in a partnership to where we use the University of Michigan to now provide the education that all of our coaches have to see each and every year prior to the season.
Without that partnership, I think there would be too many kids that aren’t served correctly by doing things that we may have heard about 7, 8, 9 years ago that are no longer the best ways to both treat and recognize symptoms. We had a young man who had gotten a concussion
and wasn’t able to play. Every time they went to the doctor was, you know, not,
not getting anything healed. And so I just asked the question, “What are they doing to treat?” And a lot of stay away from electronics, a lot of dark rooms and those kinds of things. And I said, “You know, the latest research probably doesn’t show that’s the best way to, to treat that.”
And were able to quickly turn him around to where he was back in school,
functioning at a high level again, and ultimately led to graduation just this last spring, and had no academic issues at all.
U-M Concussion Center
There’s a lot of misinformation around concussion. So our partnership with the Michigan High School Athletic Association has been phenomenal because it allows us to reach administrators, coaches, parents and athletes, and provide that information to them so they can get on the road to recovery and back to the things that they love the most.
Through the MHSAA, U-M’s Concussion Center reaches more than 750 high schools throughout Michigan.
I think people take it more seriously because there—it is research-based.
St. Joseph High School
I have total faith in our coaching staff, and if they notice anything
out of the ordinary they would pull a child off the field, send them immediately to the trainer, go through the concussion protocol.
Paw Paw High School
She fell back with her elbows back and it hit my head in, like, the same place every single time.
Cheer has the second-highest rate of concussions next to football, and I think people just don’t understand, like, how hard this sport is and how dangerous it can be.
And when I came back, they started me off, like, doing slower things, progressing into fully practicing again.
Paw Paw High School
As the principal of Paw Paw High School and also as a parent of an athlete, it just does give me some peace of mind.
The relationship with the University of Michigan’s Concussion Center has literally been a home run for us.
By Greta Guest, Michigan News
PAW PAW—Catherine Vick backspotted a flyer in cheer practice last fall when she felt the girl’s elbow strike her head … once, twice, three times and again in the very same spot.
She didn’t realize it then, but she had a concussion. Her first reaction was to play it down, shake it off.
“I’m like, it’s nothing. But then as the days kept on going, the headaches were worse,” said Vick, a 10th grader at Paw Paw High School. “My head was constantly hurting, but it was the start of the season, so I was like, ‘I don’t want to be out, so I’m not going to mention anything until about a week after it happened if it’s still hurting.'”
After a week, Vick told her coaches who started her on concussion protocol. That meant daily check-ins from her coaches, making sure she was drinking enough water and eating right, and modifying workouts for her until she was fully recovered.
“My coaches were really great about it,” she said.
Vick’s coaches earned the Michigan Sports-Related Concussion Training Certificate, developed by the University of Michigan Concussion Center to satisfy a state-mandated requirement for concussion training for all coaches and volunteers working with Michigan High School Athletic Association athletes.
The training course provides practical up-to-date concussion knowledge for athletes, parents, coaches and others involved in youth sports.
I think that the fact that the MHSAA is using the University of Michigan’s research to guide them in their protocol is phenomenal. I think it validates what we’re required to do. And I think people take it more seriously because it’s research based.
~ Stefanie Miller, Paw Paw High School math teacher and cheerleading coach
U-M research found that 1 in 4 adolescents self-reported at least one concussion in 2020, up from about 20% in 2016. During that same time period, youth who reported one concussion rose from roughly 14% to 18%, and those who reported at least two concussions increased from about 6% to 7%.
Steven Broglio, director of the U-M Concussion Center, said the partnership with MHSAA started five years ago to help erase some of the misinformation about concussions with the ultimate goal of protecting athlete health and well-being.
“There’s still a lot of misinformation around concussion—what the signs and symptoms are, how to best manage the injury,” he said. “And so we feel that we’re filling the need within the state of informing athletes and informing parents, coaches and administrators of what those are—how to seek help, where to get treatment. And then put them on the right path so that they can get back to the things that they love to do the most.”
Broglio said that as many as 10% of high school athletes will sustain a concussion in their time of being an athlete.
“Athletes in contact and collision sports such as football or ice hockey are most at risk, but we see almost identical numbers in women’s soccer and other contact sports that our female athletes are playing,” he said.
Stefanie Miller, Paw Paw high school math teacher and cheerleading coach, has been involved in cheerleading since she was in middle school. Back then, “concussion wasn’t a word that anybody ever really said.”
In the past 10 years, however, concussions have been taken more seriously.
“I feel like the whole ‘getting your bell rung’ is not a thing anymore, which is great,” she said.
Miller said that the concussion training and protocols provided by MHSAA and the U-M Concussion Center have helped coaches, parents and students understand what happens when injuries occur around the head and neck. With this information, parents can help look for the signs of a concussion in cases when the student doesn’t inform the coaches.
“I think that the fact that the MHSAA is using the University of Michigan’s research to guide them in their protocol is phenomenal,” she said. “I think it validates what we’re required to do. And I think people take it more seriously because it’s research based.”
MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said that connecting with the Michigan Concussion Center has given the organization the expertise it needed.
“We’re not medical experts, so working inside of our own silo when it came to concussion wasn’t going to be as effective as it needed to be,” he said. “We know what we’re good at and that’s building up the systems to communicate with 750 member high schools in our state.
“We needed to find experts in the field of concussion. And that’s why the relationship with the University of Michigan’s Concussion Center has literally been a home run for us.”
Andrew Pratley, assistant principal and head football coach at St. Joseph High School, said the training and raised awareness around concussions has changed mindsets and made games safer than ever as risks are minimized.
“Certainly, anyone that’s on our sidelines and recognizes those symptoms knows it’s not OK to put a kid back in until they’re cleared by a doctor,” he said. “So I think all of those things are really beneficial to the game and beneficial to our student athletes, which is really the most important.”
Vick’s father, John, who is a physician assistant and former athletic trainer, said the protocol followed for her concussion was great. Because of his medical training, he was able to do a concussion assessment when Catherine’s headache didn’t go away.
He sent her to the team’s athletic trainer, who stopped her training with the cheer team and started monitoring her symptoms on a daily basis. While concussion recovery varies by person, Vick’s persisted for six weeks and then she was eased back into her routines going to school for half days.
Her symptoms subsided after winter break and she was able to get back to training and participated without injury for the rest of the season.
“I thought it was handled absolutely appropriately, not only from a parent perspective, but also from a medical professional perspective,” John Vick said.