BOISE – When a dazed Christopher Kramer of Germany came back onto the field to continue playing in the 2014 World Cup final after taking an inadvertent yet brain-shaking hit from Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay’s shoulder to the left side of his face, viewers were sure he wouldn’t return to the pitch. He could barely hold his own head up.
But he did return, and it was clear he was suffering from a serious head injury after looking confused and unable to retain any balance, collapsing just 13 minutes later.
Kramer’s injury was upsetting, but it was the lack of concern for Kramer’s well being from his coaches and FIFA (the international governing body of soccer), which had viewers disturbed.
The risk of concussions isn’t pertinent to professional athletes.
The Idaho High School Athletic Association (IDHSAA), the state of Idaho, and school districts all around the state have taken a number of steps to prevent concussions.
According to Idaho law, “An athlete may be returned to play once the athlete is evaluated and authorized to return by a qualified health care professional who is trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.”
In addition, several high schools require student athletes and their parents to sign a waiver notifying them of concussion symptoms and steps to take immediately following a perceived concussion.
Vallivue High School athletic director Jeremy Bergquist said players in contact sports have to participate in a baseline concussion evaluation with an athletic trainer before practicing.
“It’s a cognitive test that gives us a baseline reacting number,” Bergquist said. “It’s pretty common in the Southern Idaho Conference (SIC).”
If a player were to suffer a concussion during play, they would undergo that same cognitive test, comparing the preseason score with the perceived concussion score.
Most schools require a 24-hour waiting period before players can return to the field in addition to testing.
“Part of the return to play is taking the test again and making sure they are at the level they were at during the first test,” Bergquist said.
Even with these measures in place, the risk of sustaining a concussion is still a threat.
Bishop Kelly football coach Tim Brennan said his team has been using a new type of helmet aimed at preventing concussions.
“They’re called ‘Guardian Caps,'” Brennan said. “I went to a clinic in Vegas and I saw them and thought ‘well, let’s check them out and see.'”
According to their website, Guardian “brings a soft-shell layer to the outside of the decades old hard-shell football helmets and reduces the impact the head takes in a hit up to 33%”
Brennan believes the helmets have made a difference for his players.
“We’ve had maybe one concussion in practice in the last two years at the varsity and junior varsity level,” Brennan said. “If it makes any difference, we’re going to do it.”