UNCP Athletics Address Concussion Risk

Brandon Blakney

A recent study conducted by Dr. Bennet Omalu  has brought national attention to the serious issue of concussions in sports.

His efforts and research  to correlate years of head injuries with the National Football league has trickled down into all athletics. There was a similar study conducted by one of our very own professors here at Uncp that examined concussion statistics department wide.

Although football was the main focus,t it goes beyond just contact sports. All athletes are at risk of head injury occurrences and department-wide our coaches and staff have taken notice over the years and are very cautious of players. Of the 16 varsity sports offered at the university only one sport, golf reported zero concussions occurred other teams weren’t as fortunate.

I recently held interviews with five different head coaches and the head of Campus rec here at Uncp,  to gauge how concussion protocol has changed over the years and how it’s affected their respective squads.

In the past concussion symptoms didn’t raise as many red flags in athletics because the effects and long term damage wasn’t known or understood. It was unanimous all the coaches felt this way but with new technology offers new insights.

Softball in particular have effectively cut down concussion numbers by implementing face masks on helmets to protect players. Uncp felt the masks were a necessity  after a pitcher was nailed by a line drive back at her last season.

“We have more players wearing masks on defense.” Coach Hobbs said.

 

Longtime basketball coach Don Haskins has seen a lot on the job in his many seasons of experience. He recalled one concussion case this season which is down from past years when three or four cases occurred.

“There’s not a year gone by where we haven’t had two or possibly three concussions.”

In fact about four years ago one of our better players who was an all conference player her senior season she didn’t really play that much because of reoccurring concussions.” he said

In basketball concussion symptoms have been monitored closer and coaches and staff are more cautious of these injuries than before.

“When we probably maybe had these situations occur years ago and just there wasn’t the education there wasn’t the emphasis. Now if anybody gets dinged whether they take an elbow, bang heads, or hit the floor our trainers are on top of it there giving them concussion testing and protocol.” Coach Haskins said.

Uncp’s swim team is set to compete in their inaugural season next school year and the staff is already taking precautions for potential concussion injuries that could occur in the pool. Head coach Blank is well aware of the rise of head injuries in sports and the long term damage they can cause in her young career.

“It’s definitely raised awareness as far as concussions and the impact that it has on somebody over a period of time.” She said

Concussion awareness doesn’t stop at varsity level athletics. Club teams and intramural teams have also taken safety measurements to prevent or identify these head injuries.

“I’d say it is definitely the nationwide  trend to be a little more cognizant of what’s going on. It has filtered down to all realms of campus life not just Athletics but campus recreation as a whole.”

Campus recreation has taken their own precautions to protect students and keep competitors out of harm’s way.

“Having the right equipment, the right training, preventive measures on safety and risk management, within each one of the programs,” said Winans, “.And then if something like that does happen having individual staff that are able to act on their training.”

Concussions have always been a serious issue in sports but now necessary precautions have been implemented to proper handle these cases. The safety of the athletes is always the priority here at UNCP, and although concussions aren’t totally avoidable students and athletes can rest easy knowing we have a well trained and knowledgeable staff to handle the situation properly when it arises.

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