Jean Rickerson, 52, of Sequim, WA has been on a mission to spread the word about concussion awareness to players, parents, coaches and all others involved in youth sports after her 17-year-old son, Drew, experienced a significant brain injury on a high school football field.
Jean, a retired video producer, has devoted all of her free time to not only educating people in her community through public workshops, but also by creating an online resource for people to learn and understand the signs, symptoms, risks and treatment of concussion. Drew's concussion forced him out of school and out of participating in sports for months. It took him nearly a full year to recover.
In 2008, Drew, 16-years-old at the time, was a highly acclaimed high school varsity football quarterback and baseball player. During one Friday night football game in November, Drew took a hard hit - a helmet-to-helmet collision. He didn't show any outward sign of serious injury, so he kept playing. Within 15 minutes he passed for one touchdown and ran the ball into the end zone for another. He then handed the ball to the referee and started stumbling his way to the sideline where he lost his eyesight and hearing and was unable to verbalize what was happening to him. When the game ended, Jean looked into his face and knew something was terribly wrong - he had a vacant and empty look. Paramedics at the field hesitated to bring him to the hospital because they didn't think it looked serious. Jean disagreed, and insisted that he be transported to the hospital immediately. The ED doctors cleared him to play after a good night's rest. Over the next couple of days he was sluggish, dazed and lost his ability to read or concentrate. Five days after the injury, his reflexes became impaired and he experienced numbness in his arms and legs so Jean called 911 and Drew was transported to the trauma center two hours away. Released from the ED after negative CTs and MRIs, Jean spent the next ten weeks looking for qualified medical help. Afraid the damage would be permanent, Jean sought out concussion and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Stan Herring, Medical Director of the Seattle Seahawks and Mariners, (now co-chairman of an NFL concussion sub-committee) to get Drew the care he needed. Over the next few months, Drew slowly improved but did not go back to school full-time until January.
He was cleared to play sports again in March, but it took nearly a year to fully recover.
Jean decided to take matters into her own hands so that other parents and athletes wouldn't have to go through the same thing. Jean started by contacting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information, then went door to door on an educational crusade and produced videos on concussion awareness with local stories from other athletes. In June 2009, Jean organized a free public workshop for athletes, parents, coaches and others involved in youth sports. More than 200 people from across the state of Washington participated. The overwhelming response inspired Jean to launch SportsConcussions.org, a website that has become a leading resource for information on the prevention and management of sports-related concussion. Her advisors include Dr. Herring, Dr. Gerard Gioia, Mike Ryan of the Jacksonville Jaquars, and Chris Nowinski, of Boston, MA, among others. The website is on track to have 20,000 visitors in October. Jean's Message to Parents "What floors me is the lack of information most of us have and before this, I was also part of the problem.
I hope the website will help parents, coaches and the players themselves become more aware of concussions and know what to do if they occur," says Jean. "There is an important conversation out there about concussions and we as parents, players and coaches need to be a part of it."
Local media coverage of Jean and Drew's story:
o Sequim Gazette
o Kitsap Sun
• Safe Kids USA: www.safekids.org
• Online concussion resource started by Jean: www.sportsconcussions.org, featured in the The New York Times on 9/22/10
According to major health and safety organizations, an alarming rate of injuries is occurring in youth sports. More than 3.5 million injuries are estimated this year alone and they are occurring with greater frequency and at younger ages. Experts say many of these injuries, perhaps even half, are likely preventable without any negative impact on participation in youth sports. More than 30 million children participate in sports each year in the United States. The most common types of sports-related injuries in children are sprains, muscle strains, repetitive motion injuries and heat-related illness. Safe Kids USA is part of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14.
More than 600 coalitions and chapters across the U.S. and nineteen member countries across the globe bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families. Safe Kids Worldwide (formerly the National SAFE KIDS Campaign) was founded in 1987 by Children's National Medical Center with support from Johnson & Johnson. For more information visit www.safekids.org
Youth Fitness Magazine
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