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SPECIAL REPORT: Concussions in high school sports - Part 1

A three part series

Concussion prevention program'

SALINAS, Calif. - Parents at a football game. Most are hoping for a win and are probably a little nervous about injuries.

Concussions are one of the most serious injuries in sports, affecting one of every five high school athletes. That’s just one reason Natividad Medical Center launched the Brain Smart Program.

"Brain Smart is a trauma prevention program designed to bring awareness to traumatic brain injuries, including sports-related concussions," said Lorraine Artinger, trauma prevention and outreach nurse at Natividad.

Experts from Natividad have been visiting high schools in Salinas this year to talk with athletes, their parents, coaches and school staff about concussion prevention and care.

"I think it's really important that you encompass the entire team that may be surrounding the athlete,  because this is really focused on that athlete when you talk about sports related concussions," said Dr. Debi Siljander, a sports medicine specialist at Natividad.

"Every time you're in the game, you want to be on your game. And when you're having a concussion, you're not on your game," Dr. Siljander told a school audience.

The idea is to teach athletes to put their health and safety first, before the game.

"Working as a sports medicine physician, I really like to see the questions. Wow, maybe I had a concussion. This really helps me recognize what the signs and symptoms are," she said.

While athletes are learning Brain Smart lessons, so are coaches and trainers.

"We all have that same goal and mission,” said Dr. Siljander, “and that is to keep that athlete performing at their highest level, so we really look to how do we get them back? How do we keep them safe?"

Back at school, Dr. Siljander told students, “If you are an athlete, and you are having trouble concentrating, trouble focusing on your homework, focusing in class, let them know so then they can help you."

Natividad Medical Center plans to take its Brain Smart Program to more schools in Monterey County. The goal is the same everywhere: teach people how to protect the brains of young athletes.

"I think the big message is, if in doubt keep them out," said Dr. Siljander.

"It's better to miss one game than a whole season," said Artinger.


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