“First and foremost, obviously, and I’m sure all the teams do it, is we make sure the helmets are fitted properly. We always check if the kids need more air in their helmets. So we do that first and foremost. Secondly, one of things we tried to do this year, even thought we’ve been plagued by (concussions) is we try to do neck strengthening and conditioning at the end of each practice. I read in some coaching magazines that there is information out there that supports the theory that the stronger the neck the more it could help prevent concussions. So we’ve incorporated that after each practice.
“We have an information board. On the board it states all the symptoms of a concussion. That’s posted for everybody to keep as much information on hand as possible. One of the symptoms is a headache. And as soon as a kid comes up to me and says, ‘I have a headache,’ now there’s a protocol I have to follow and a series of questions we need to ask — Did you get hit? When did you get hit? You look at eyes their eyes to see if the pupils are dilated. Are you nauseous? Are your eyes sensitive to light? During rigorous exercise do you get lightheaded? If a kid says yes to a couple of those questions we immediately tell them to see the trainer. I’ve got to err on the side of caution. You can’t just give it a couple days and see what happens. There are state laws that say that if we feel a kid has a concussion and we continue to play him there are ramifications, ultimately in us losing our jobs.”
— Mike Rhoades, Saegertown
“If something happens where a kid complains about (concussion symptoms) we would pull them out. The sports medicine (professionals), they do a great job of making sure the kids go through certain steps to get treated and get back to playing.
“I think it’s on everyone’s mind. It makes it seem like it’s more prevalent now. Any time there’s a big hit or anything like that, it’s the first thing that pops into your head. It used to be if there was a big hit, you would think, ‘Did they break something?’ Now when there’s a big hit, the first thing that comes to mind is a concussion.
“You have to worry about it. Especially when something happens like that kid in New York.” (Damon James, a 16-year-old running back from Westfield-Brocton High School, died in September after a tackle in a football game.) “It’s something I always worry about. It seems like every year there is one situation like that nationwide where that happens. It’s part of it now. But I never even thought about it when I played. I didn’t think anything about it. They were so rare. It seemed rare. Now it seems like you have a multitude of them every year.”
— Bryan Borkovich, Maplewood