Student athlete injuries: When is it safe to play?

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Athletes of any age can suffer injuries. But for young people, concussions may be one of the most troublesome.

Schools are doing what they can to prevent those injuries.

Anela Apo played volleyball at Iolani School. She suffered a concussion in a match last year and is still recovering.

“Just because they have a doctor’s clearance, just because they have passed a concussion test, the impact test, the cognitive test, that does not necessarily mean they are ready to go back to play that day,” Iolani School athletic trainer Louise Inafuku said.

All students involved in athletics have to take what’s called a baseline test. It measures a number of factors before they compete.

“We create an understanding of what an athlete looks like, moves like, thinks like before they play their sport. And then we can re-test them after they’ve had an injury, we can go ahead and test them,” said Dr. Rachel Coel at Queen’s Medical Center.

That re-testing will check physical and mental symptoms.

Identifying a concussion can be difficult. Does the athlete lose consciousness.

“Probably about a quarter of concussions, if that, actually have loss of consciousness. In the vast majority of concussions, a person does not pass out,” Dr. Coel said.

The trainer’s role is vital, but sometimes a player’s teammates may be the first to notice symptoms of a concussion.

“That is a huge, huge thing for the team mates role in the concussion management. So it’s very important that everyone is a key player,” Inafuku said.

Team and family support are important after a concussion.

“Physically, mentally, especially athletes in sports. It’s something that parents need to be aware of because they need to support their children. Because from experience, it’s a really tough situation,” Apo said.

Dr. Coel has practical knowledge when it comes to concussions.

“I’ve had two. Oddly enough, one was from paddling,” Dr. Coel said.

Parents are encouraged to have a baseline test of their children before any athletic activity.

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