Health Team

Local clinics collecting data on athletes' concussions

Posted August 20, 2009 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated August 20, 2009 6:24 p.m. EDT

— As high school football season returns Friday night, expect some hard hits on the field. In most cases, the players get right back up for the next play. However, some hits are bad enough that there is the concern of concussions.

Two North Carolina high school football players died last year from concussions. Doctors said the first hit can hurt, but the second blow can be the most damaging.

Several centers in Wake County are ready to help those players avoid the greater risk of a second injury before they've healed from the first.

As of last year, schools are required to hold young athletes with concussion-like symptoms out of games until cleared by a physician.

WakeMed, Raleigh Neurology and Carolina Sports and Family Medicine now offer dedicated concussion clinics to quickly diagnose athletes after they're injured.

The clinics collect data on things like memory tests, balance, fine motor skills and cognitive changes. The research will result in a model program to assess young athletes and know exactly when they can safely get back into the game.

Raleigh Neurologist Dr. John Wooten was at the game last year when Leesville High School’s Alan Evans was injured on the field against Millbrook.

“In the black jersey, here he comes. Bam! Not quite down, hit again, hit again and by this point, he is clearly, significantly impaired,” Wooten recalled. “The night Allen had his concussion, his eye movements were not normal and his pupils were very abnormal.”

Allen said he felt "out of it.” Two weeks later, Wooten cleared Allen to play again.

“That, quote ‘ding’ that people get, brief confusion, that's a type of concussion,” Wooten said. “Those players are at risk of serious injury if they're not allowed time to heal.”

Wooten said he estimates there are one to two concussions in every game in Wake County.

“They can't think as well, their moods change, their grades are affected,” he said.