“You’ve got to play through the pain,” was the rule Gary Hahn of Bowie followed when he played football as a child. In retrospect, Hahn said he probably had a concussion at some point but continued to play anyway.
Now, Hahn, the lacrosse commissioner for the Bowie Boys and Girls Club, and other club leaders are working to better identify concussions, a type of traumatic brain injury, among the roughly 2,500 children who participate in the youth athletics organization.
The club is working to arrange free medical screenings of players’ mental state prior to the start of play, said Joe Hoyt, president of the Bowie Boys and Girls Club. In addition, the club has spent $6,000 on a new electronic device aimed at detecting when players take a hit hard enough that it could cause a concussion.
The effort was welcomed by Josclyn Poiani of Bowie, who has one son in the lacrosse program and an older son who used to be in the club.
“I’m really happy to see something like this,” she said. “I’ve seen some kids get hit hard enough in the head to warrant getting a new helmet, but were they pulled off the field for a head injury? No.”
A concussion can affect a young person’s cognitive abilities, making it harder for them to pay attention in class or take tests, said Dr. Sarah Jamieson, director of the concussion clinic at Anne Arundel Medical Center. Another concussion to someone who already has had one can exacerbate the injury, potentially causing mental issues or death, she said.
Hoyt has been working to arrange a screening of all the club’s youths with AAMC since November, and they are currently planned to start in the fall, Hoyt said. Screening tests the speed and accuracy of how people complete a roughly 40-minute computerized test that involves everything from pattern recognition to reaction time on a computer as well as other exams, Jamieson said. After a big hit, medical personnel can redo the tests to look for changes, she said. The Boys and Girls Club will be the first organization to have all its members scanned at AAMC, she said.
A device purchased by the club for helmets measures sudden shifts in acceleration, which can accompany a big hit, Hoyt said. The device, an impact sensor, is attached to the back of a player’s helmet and flashes red if an athlete experiences more than 75 times the normal gravity on the body, said Julie Mullins, marketing director for Brain Sentry, manufacturer of the sensor being used by the club.
About 180 children play lacrosse with the club, and about 200 of the devices are planned to be delivered in May. The sensor usually sells for about $50 each; however, the club got each device at about $30 per unit for preordering, Mullins said.
Sports such as football and lacrosse tend to be the more physically aggressive sports and more prone to concussions than some other sports, Jamieson said.
“Hopefully, we put them on, and they pan out, and the football program will adopt them,” Hahn said.