The last thing a high school football player wants to do is miss out on the action. But when it comes to head injuries, that decision is no longer left up to the player or their coach.
Crystal Reynolds is the athletic trainer for Garrett Academy, a high-performing magnet high school in North Charleston that offers a wide range of career and technology education programs. But while they’re still in high school learning a career for the working world, they also like to play.
“I have about 150 athletes in football, basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, tennis, soccer and track,” said Reynolds, who is just one of the Roper St. Francis trainers assigned to almost every high school in Charleston County. “But, of course, football accounts for about 70 percent of our injuries.”
And aside from the occasional shoulder fracture or leg injury, one of the biggest concerns is concussions.
The subject of brain injuries has gained major momentum since the National Football League began paying more attention. Where once a player might be held out for a play and then sent back in to the game, now there is much more attention given to these injuries, especially at the high school level.
“We actually have computer software called ImPACT (Immediate PostConcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) available on the sidelines,” Reynolds said. “Before the season starts, we test each athlete and get a baseline. Then, we can test them after they take a hit and send that information directly to a neurosurgeon.”
But unlike the old days, a player is unlikely to be sent right back in on the next play.
“They actually have to wait seven days from their last symptom, then another three days to go through protocol before they can return to the field,” she said.
And while coaches used to grumble about their star players behind held out, they’ve now been educated by what has happened to some pro players who suffered repeated concussions, and they get it.
“I’d say our recognition of concussions has gone up about 30 percent since we started this program four years ago,” Reynolds said.
Not only that, Roper St. Francis sponsors a free Sports Injury Clinic every Saturday morning after the Friday night games so athletes can get immediate attention. The clinic is held from 9-11 a.m. at Orthopedic Specialists of Charleston located on the second floor of Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in West Ashley.
“Where else can a high school athlete get to see an orthopedic surgeon the very next day after an injury?” Reynolds asked.
All of which means a lot to Reynolds and her fellow high school athletic trainers because, as she says, “I’ve been at Garrett for four years now. So these are my kids. I feel like I’ve raised them.”
Learn more about the Roper St. Francis Sports Medicine Program.
By: Ken Burger, former Post and Courier sports columnist and local author. Reach Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org.