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Health Department Tracking Concussions In High School Athletes

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CBS Minnesota (con't)

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — For the first time, solid numbers are being collected in Minnesota on how concussions really affect high school athletes.

The Minnesota Department of Health is tracking concussions at 42 high schools. Through the first seven weeks of the fall sports season, 373 student athletes have been diagnosed with a concussion.  According to one expert, the number seems to be on par with previous years.  This study is now providing a number for the issue.

The study reveals how many kids are getting hurt and how long the injuries are keeping them out of sports and out of school.  The medical professionals tracking student concussion in Minnesota don’t want the numbers to scare parents into pulling their kids out of sports, but rather make them aware of the symptoms and consequences.

Eagan High School junior Liz Melde knows the consequences of suffering a concussion all too well.  She was diagnosed with her third concussion in February, after she was injured in a basketball game. Liz said the headaches lasted months and she has increased anxiety.

“This time it didn’t go away, unlike the last two (concussions),” said the 17-year-old.

The road to recovery meant missing months of sports and also school, including finals.

“You’re talking about their future learning and how they will function and memory,” says Liz’s mom Michelle. “It’s very scary.”

The Minnesota Department of Health is now recording injuries like Liz’s. Lori Glover is the community sports medicine director for the Institute for Athletic Medicine and also part of a group of professionals tracking where these athletes are cared for, how much school and practice they miss and when they return to sports.

Glover said there are potential problems if a student who suffered a concussion returns too soon.

“There were athletes and patients who were dropping out of honors classes, AP classes, failing their classes, (and) failing their tests,” said Glover.

This new information being tracked will give Minnesota medical professionals a better sense of how big of an issue concussion recovery is for high school athletes.  As the fall high school sports season progresses and more data is gathered, the Minnesota Department of Health will assess the information.

Now a junior at Eagan High School and having been through three concussions, Liz has been cleared to play basketball this season knowing exactly what’s at stake if she suffers another.

“We think I’ll be done with all sports for the rest of high school and after,” said Liz. She said it’s a risk she’s willing to take.

As required by a state law passed in 2011, coaches and officials are required to watch a 30 second concussion video from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention. It shows how a brain can be damaged by a blow to the head or body. The law also requires that parents and athletes have access to concussion information, so they are informed enough to recognize the symptoms of a concussion and the proper steps for treatment.

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