Treating concussions during the high school football season

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Prep athletes will be hitting the gridiron this week for the first games of the high school football season.

One common misconception is that an advanced helmet will protect someone from concussions, a notion that local doctors disagree with.

Health experts say there will be special emphasis on player's health and concussion protocols set forth by the WIAA, in order to better understand how to prevent and treat concussions.

Athletic trainer at north high school, Katie Luttropp, says that they take these guidelines very seriously.

"Immediately after we get them off to the sideline, if they can make it off to the sideline, we do an evaluation right away to rule out any red flags,” Luttropp said.

Luttropp also says that diagnosing a concussion during a game can be hard.

"It is kind of a tough one because you have to base it off of the symptoms and how they're progressing,” she said. “So we really have to use what we have as concussion management tools such as the Scat Five that we use."

The Scat five is a process where the injured athlete has to answer questions such as what day it is, where they are, and other questions that test their memory.

Athletic trainers say there is no number of concussions one can have before they are deemed ineligible to play and that it is a case by case basis.

"Every athlete we individualize. it is based on how quickly they recover,” Luttropp said. “So we have athletes that have one concussion and they are done playing sports for obviously the rest of their lives. Then we have athletes who have multiple, six or seven, and based on how quickly they recover we’re continuing to let them return back to activity.”

Dr. Adam Atkins from Marshfield Clinic in Eau Claire says that while a concussion is a brain injury, it does not show up on an MRI or CT scan.

“It is a chemical shift in your brain,” he said. “So if you think of your brain as brain cells on one side of a balance and the fluid that surrounds the brain cells on the other side of a balance. When you get hit in the head, some of the chemicals will go from one side to the other and it creates an imbalance. That is a concussion.”

One common misconception is that an advanced helmet will protect someone from concussions, a notion that Atkins disagrees with.

"Think of your brain as a yolk inside of an egg, it doesn't matter what you put around the shell,” Atkins said. “If you hit whatever protective equipment it is, it still makes the yolk inside slosh around."

Atkins also says that while a concussion is a brain injury, it does not show up on an MRI or CT scan.

“It is a chemical shift in your brain,” he said. “So if you think of your brain as brain cells on one side of a balance and the fluid that surrounds the brain cells on the other side of a balance. When you get hit in the head, some of the chemicals will go from one side to the other and it creates an imbalance. That is a concussion.”

Atkins says this is his busiest time of year, and he sees about 10 patients every week suffering from a concussion throughout the football season.

Luttropp says that educating parents, players, and coaches is key in preventing concussions.