A new law aimed at improving concussion care for student athletes could have spared Caroline Temple and her family a lot of unnecessary suffering. As a fifth-grade volleyball player, Caroline was walking off the court at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 2011 when she was hit in the back of the head by a falling pole.
After an emergency room visit, Caroline was released without a diagnosis, tests, restrictions, or prescribed follow-up care. For the next two days, Victoria Temple said her daughter was immobilized by a severe headache. A pediatrician friend of the family heard about Caroline’s symptoms and urged the Temples to get her to a doctor right away for treatment and evaluation of a concussion.
The following Monday, Caroline’s pediatrician diagnosed a concussion and restricted her from sports until she was headache and Tylenol free at least a few days. Twelve days later she was released for play with no academic or physical restrictions. But all was not well with Caroline.
During the next few weeks, she began showing classic signs of a concussive patient:
• slipping grades
• problems with short term memory
• moodiness and emotional distress
• difficulty staying mentally focused
Caroline’s behavior concerned her parents enough that they set a meeting with her teacher. Meanwhile, she received another hit so common in volleyball that no one thought much about it. During a pre-game warm-up, she was struck in the face by a ball. “She started to cry and said her head hurt, but she wanted to play,” Temple said. Honoring Caroline’s wishes, the coach decided to put her in the game.
Within a few plays Caroline’s uncoordinated movements hinted at a serious problem. She missed a serve, couldn’t spike the ball, and was nowhere near the action. Fortunately, the coach responded by removing her from the game. Caroline walked off the court with the same severe headache she had with an earlier concussion. Two days after the hit, her pediatrician diagnosed a second concussion.
In our next few posts you’ll hear more about Caroline’s long road to recovery and discover why better concussion awareness might have prevented her injury.