ERs see more kids with head injuries

  • Article by: JEREMY OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 6, 2011 - 7:07 PM

Duffy Fallon's concussion story has many alarming details, starting with the check from behind during a Breck hockey game that sent him headfirst into the boards.

More alarming was the fact that he stayed on the ice -- scoring a third-period goal -- although at one point his vision turned glittery and faded to black. He skated to the boards and felt his way to the bench. After the game, he vomited repeatedly and was taken to a hospital.

Most alarming was that this probably was his second concussion in a month and that he didn't recognize the first one until after having the second.

The lack of recognition of concussions and the dangers of ignoring symptoms prompted state lawmakers this year to require concussion training for coaches and clearance from medical professionals for injured athletes to return to play.

Advocates hope the law will increase awareness of first concussions and prevent the second ones that cause long-term damage. (Fallon developed memory problems and sensitivity to light.)

They also see results in a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a 60 percent increase from 2001 to 2009 in ER visits by children who suffered sports concussions. "It means we're playing it more conservatively and not allowing [athletes] to go unchecked, " said Mary Griffith of HealthEast's concussion clinic.

Another good sign, she said, is that more athletes are coming in for checkups because their coaches required it.

Fallon, a junior, is taking a full load of classes, including chemistry, economics and AP U.S. history, but he has to study twice as hard and write more things down. Hockey is out.

He wishes he had recognized the first concussion or pulled himself from the game last February. But the temptation to keep playing was strong. A fourth-line player, he worried about making the state tournament. "I didn't want to lose that playing time," he said, "and risk getting cut."

jolson@startribune.com • 612-673-7744

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