Jackson, MS (WLBT) - Now that football season is in full swing, the University of Mississippi Medical Center is encouraging high school athletic departments to take concussions seriously.
WLBT found out that having at least one medical professional on the sidelines can make a big difference.
Jennifer Reneker, an associate professor of physical therapy at UMMC, says the ability to diagnose a concussion is difficult.
“It’s an invisible injury," she said. “And what I mean by that is there is nothing that can be seen on standard imaging.”
Rather, it’s a functional injury which means that is disrupts how your brain actually functions.
CDC reports show the occurrence of concussions in high school athletes is higher than in adult athletes. Combine that with the fact that coaches have 60-70 players, having medial personnel on site is a benefit.
Cody Pannell, an assistant professor of physical therapy, often volunteers at high school football games. He was at the Canton Academy and Tri-County Academy game Friday night.
“You’re constantly scanning the crowd, constantly scanning the sidelines trying to find that one thing that might stick out, that one sign and symptom that doesn’t make sense,” he said.
He looks for things coaches may not see and athletes may not recognize in themselves.
“Any kind of confusion, sensitivity to light, grabbing their heads," Pannell said. "Sometimes they’ll even grab their hair and pull because they have such an intense pain.”
Not every school has the ability to hire a medical professional. Reneker says that’s when players need to look out for one another.
“If you suspect your friend standing next to you has something going on, that they just had a hard hit and you’re seeing that they’re not acting quite right, it’s really important that you let an adult know,” she said.
The same goes for coaches and referees.
To bring more attention to sports related concussion, UMMC will be hosting the “Heads Up Mississippi Concussion” conference at the Clyde Mews Center located at Hinds Community College on September 26. Medical professionals as well as coaches and athletes are encouraged to attend.