Sunday, October 09, 2011

Houston student strives to overcome concussions

Cornerstone Academy student strives to overcome concussions

By Jack Marrion | Posted: Sunday, October 9, 2011 9:22 pm
It was a play Davis Lamberton had run countless times.
Lined up as a receiver during an October 2010 game, his responsibility was to block the defensive end.
A defensive end himself, Lamberton was used to collisions. As he routinely initiated contact once more both players’ helmets collided, but the effect on Lamberton was significant.
“On film it doesn’t look like a helmet-jarring hit,” said Joe Malouf, an assistant coach on the Spring Branch Memorial Sports Association team Lamberton played for last year. “We were kind of shocked he had a concussion. On an event like that you usually see a violent collision. But he got up and went back to the huddle. He was talking but it just wasn’t correct so we had our trainer look at him.”
Members of the team and coaching staff of The Cardinal, the SBMSA varsity (ages 11-12) division team for which Lamberton played in 2010, got Lamberton off the field and his parents took him to the emergency room.
“The game was just about over and he was stumbling on the field,” Davis’ mother Meredith Lamberton said. “In the huddle he couldn’t remember if they had won or lost. The coach pulled me over and said something wasn’t right. His head was killing him.”
Lamberton, who has not played football since, was diagnosed with a concussion and his symptoms lingered. Currently an eighth-grade student at Spring Branch ISD’s Cornerstone Academy, he recalls struggling with reading, classroom instruction, migraine-level pain, sensitivity to light and balance issues, among other symptoms, during the course of more than two months.
“School got really hard,” Lamberton said. “Usually I got straight As, but it got really hard. Socially it became kind of hard. I’d have headaches, I’d be dizzy and just confused. One day I just completely couldn’t subtract.”
Lamberton recovered from his October 2010 concussion but has since had two more. One occurred in February during a game of flag tag at school. This past September he said he was kicking a soccer ball with his friends when struck with another concussion.
“We were just playing soccer and the ball was in the air,” Lamberton said. “I thought to head it, and I did. It felt really weird. It seemed so small, but it really put it in perspective that I need to take it easy.”
Fortunately, Lamberton has been supported in recovery by family, friends, educators and physicians. He advanced through a trying seventh-grade year at Cornerstone and has broadened his interests in addition to athletics.
Lamberton has been unusually susceptible to concussions, also suffering two mild head injuries prior to the one he sustained on the football field. He has had five concussions in three years.
Knowledge and awareness has increased for concussions, particularly in youth sports, reflected by the passing of Natasha’s Law in Texas this year.
According to the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is estimated more than three million recreation- and sport-related concussions occur annually in the United States, though several go undiagnosed. In high school sports, football, girls soccer, boys lacrosse, boys soccer and girls basketball are the leading producers of traumatic brain injuries.
Dr. Joshua Rotenberg treats neurological conditions in children, teens and young adults, as well as sleep disorders in adults at Texas Medical and Sleep Specialists in the Memorial City Medical Plaza. Though he said the high school sports season has coincided with an increase in concussion patients, athletics are merely one cause.
“More concussions are from falls and motor vehicle accidents,” said Rotenberg, who has treated Lamberton since his October 2010 concussion. “It’s great that awareness is being raised through sports, but I think one of the important messages to get out is it’s not just sports. Any impulsive force to any part of the body which causes a brain deceleration can cause concussion.
“Davis is in an atypical position. But it illustrates the point that even if you keep a young person out of sports they can still fall down and have a concussion playing in the yard or at recess.”
As Rotenberg noted the most significant aspect of treating a concussion is rest, both physical and cognitive. The AAP recommends shortening days and reducing workloads in school during recovery, while limiting exposure to computers, video games and television at home.
Rest can be accompanied by exercises to build tolerance to symptoms, including trouble with balance and dizziness. Lamberton said one test included spinning in a chair until he was dizzy. Another involved focusing on his extended finger while turning his head back and forth, which Lamberton said he struggled with at first but gradually had less trouble with.
Lamberton rehabilitated at Memorial Hermann’s TIRR outpatient facility at Kirby Glen following his October 2010 concussion.
Rotenberg said the duration of the recovery process can vary and symptoms differ for each individual. Meredith Lamberton observed her son had post-concussion symptoms for two months following his football injury.
“Typically young people are impaired longer than adults,” said Rotenberg, also a member of the Spring Branch ISD Concussion Management Team. “My message to families when they come in is it is likely to take months to improve. When it does it can improve quickly. Seventy-five to 80 percent of concussions are resolved by the three-week mark, but it kind of depends on how closely you look.”

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