Every Tuesday, on the top floor of the old Blue and Co. building across from the library in Seymour, five athletics trainers representing seven high schools meet to discuss what they’ve seen in the field.
Kyle Coates, Kelli Hacker, Sarah Bevers, Melanie Day and Bradley Tabeling, certified athletics trainer at Schneck Medical Center who work in conjunction with area schools, sit in a circle on medical stools and discuss injuries to their athletes, new medical practices and prevention.
Almost every other week, a concussion arises — an injury that has recently raised alarm for many parents.
The trainers estimate about 40 total concussions have been diagnosed, among all their high school sports, since the start of the 2015-16 sports calendar.
Now, the issue of concussions is being raised at an even younger level.
On Feb. 4, a bill that would extend concussion protections to more student athletes moved to the Indiana House after being approved (in a 41-9 vote) by the state’s Senate.
Senate Bill 234, which was introduced to the Family and Children Services Committee, would broaden the law to include any sport — including cheerleading in fifth through eighth grade, a press release stated.
In 2015, the bill failed to get a hearing.
The bill, which would go into effect July 1, 2017, would also require all coaches for any sport to engage in certain certified coaching education courses.
Currently, only football coaches and assistants are required to train.
One of the biggest challenges is recognizing the concussions in younger athletes.
“I’ve seen several, but I think that many haven’t been detected,” said Hacker, who works with Brownstown Central High School. “(Legislature) doesn’t think that most of the coaches have the training that the high school coaches have. Maybe people just don’t expect it to be as common place with younger kids. I think there needs to be more education with coaches working with kids at the younger level. They need to communicate.
“There are so many things changing with what a concussion is. We are so much more aware of it. It’s something we’ve had to deal with.”
Coates, Seymour High School’s athletics trainer, said that some concussions are going undiagnosed with the younger athletes.
“I think it’s hard for (younger kids) to describe their symptoms sometimes and how they are feeling,” he said. “They don’t always perceive them as they would if they were a more mature kid.
“It’s usually the obvious ones we see, where the coaches and parents know that something is definitely wrong.”
Sarah Bevers, who covers at Trinity Lutheran, Crothersville and Medora, agreed with Coates.
“It seems like they’re more sustainable because they’re not really coordinated yet,” she said. “They haven’t grown into their bodies. However, they do recover quicker at a younger age because their brains are continually developing.”
While imPACT testing has helped diagnose concussions with high school athletes, the test doesn’t always work for the elementary and middle school-aged kids.
If a younger athlete fails the test, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a concussion.
“It’s designed more for high school kids with the difficulty levels,” Bevers said. “If it’s fifth and sixth grade they will probably do really poorly with the test because they don’t understand the test. It’s a lot of memorizing patterns and shapes.”
There isn’t a sure-proven way to detect concussions with younger athletes — on the spot — without taking MRIs.
However, new sideline methods are being tried to recognize the issues as technology and information is discovered.
Melanie Day, who works with Jennings County, became familiar with a “King Devick” test that might help working with younger kids.
The remove-from-play concussion screening tool establishes a baseline before the season, and utilizes cards with numbers and patterns during games to help reveal concussive symptoms.
“If it’s off by a few seconds it can detect a concussion,” Day said. “The times may vary with the younger kids. You have different cards that they memorize that would be more difficult if you have a concussion. It takes around 30 seconds and background noise doesn’t affect the results.”
All of the trainers encourage seeing medical attention if suspicion of concussion arises.
As concussion awareness grows, the trainers have seen more active involvement with parents, coaches and kids.
“At first, a lot of people came because of a concussion scare,” said Tabeling, who is in his first year at Scottsburg. “It’s best that they’re coming up. A lot of people are worried about it.”