As concussion awareness rises, new practice assists students

She walks into school with a headache that hasn’t gone away since the hit at last night’s game. He can’t concentrate during class because of the bright lights and loud noises. She couldn’t sleep last night and he can’t remember anything from his English reading. Could they have concussions? Concussion testing helps athletes, coaches, and trainers establish a baseline for each player, and education may lower the possibility of injury, but once a student athlete has a concussion, how do they heal and learn?

“St. Paul Academy and Summit School has no official concussion policy, but a practice, meaning we are still developing and crafting an official policy,” Dean of Students Max Delgado said.

Athletic trainer Holly Gaudreau goes to all varsity games and is certified to diagnose concussions through the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer. Gaudreau is registered with the MN Board of Medical Practice and is employed by Sports and Orthopedic specialists/ Allina Heath. If an athlete suffers a concussion on the field, she will diagnose them right away. She also helps student athletes after they have been diagnosed.

Senior Jacqueline Olson suffered a concussion while learning a new dive at diving practice. She met with Gaudreau regularly.
According to Dean Delgado, if a student were to get a concussion today, SPA would have a plan for that student. But because concussions affect people in different ways the plan would be tailored to that student’s injury.

Gaudreau said that “We don’t really like to label concussions because people are affected in different ways but most concussions are mild to moderate.” Fortunately, “We have had no life-altering concussions at SPA.”

In addition to the school’s concussion practice, the athletes follow the return to play protocol issued by the Minnesota State High School League. An athlete must go through all six steps of the return to play policy before competing. If an athlete were to get to step three but then experience symptoms again, they would drop back down to step one. The steps can be read in detail on the MSHSL website. 

There are not more concussions today than before; we just happen to know more about …how to diagnose and treat them.”

— Athletic Trainer Holly Gaudreau

At school, “Teachers will do whatever possible” to help a student after they have suffered a concussion Delgado said. Often they will come to school late or leave school early so that they can get the appropriate amount of rest.

Gaudreau tells students to treat the day after they have suffered a concussion like a sick day: if they don’t feel well in the morning, don’t come to school.
“I missed no school due to my concussion, but it was hard to concentrate in class and it was hard to be subjected to loud noises or bright lights,” Olson said.
Because of these different disabilities in the classroom Olson said she was given extensions on work and was allowed to spread out missed tests.
“There are not more concussions today than before; we just happen to know more now about concussions and how to diagnose and treat them,” Gaudreau said.