Thank you for visiting Countywide Concussion Care. My name is David Goldstein. I am a volunteer of the KiDZ Neuroscience Center at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. I am also a spokesperson for the Brain Injury Association of Florida’s statewide Mind Your Brain Campaign to raise public awareness about concussions and to push for passage of the sports concussion legislation. I am dedicated to improving awareness and treatment of concussions.
I know first-hand the importance of concussion awareness and prevention, as well as making sure that people who have sustained a head injury get access to the right medical treatment as soon as possible.
I’ve played soccer practically my whole life. It’s a big part of my life, and I can’t imagine soccer not being part of my daily routine. But last year I thought I might not ever get to play soccer again. In January of 2010, I had a head-to-head collision with another soccer player going for a header during the district finals for my school team.
As a freshman, I did not expect to play in the district final, but our senior starting defender tore his ACL and, I was put in the game against our school rival. The instant the collision happened, my hands went right to my head, and I knew that things weren’t right. I was very concerned, as I had sustained two concussions in the previous three years playing soccer. However, I was playing in the biggest game of my life, and I kept playing until the end of the game.
What I realize now is that I shouldn’t have kept playing.
After the game, my head was killing me. The next day, I had a practice for my club soccer team. I didn’t feel well; I was having headaches and felt nauseated and exhausted. My parents thought I was getting sick before the school game and that I had overexerted myself at the school game because they didn’t see the collision. But I felt that I really needed to practice with my club team, because my club coach would not accept that I was hurt in a school game. I scrimmaged for two hours against older players. After the scrimmage, I collapsed under the excruciating pain. I started thinking that maybe I had a concussion, but by then it was too late. It was a big mistake to play in the scrimmage.
My parents started taking me to different doctors and it was really discouraging because some of them told me I couldn’t play soccer ever again while others said I just needed to wait until I felt better. My head hurt so badly that every day I had to sleep a couple periods at the nurse’s office at school. My nausea lasted for three weeks, but my other symptoms such as the horrible headache, balance problems, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, and fatigue persisted. I struggled to keep my grades up.
After several months of trying to find answers, I continued to experience relentless headaches. Eventually, someone suggested we try the University of Miami’s and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis Concussion Clinic. Dr. GIllian Hotz and Dr. Kester Nedd performed different tests on me than what the other doctors had done and found out that my inner ear had been affected from the injury and that’s why my balance was off. Through UM’s expertise on treating sports-related concussions, I eventually stopped having symptoms. They also introduced me to the ImPACT Test, a computer program that uses a baseline testing system to diagnose concussion.
The ImPACT Test is the only concussion test of its kind. All it requires is a qualified administrator (Dr. Hotz), software, a computer, a keyboard, and a mouse. It tests reflexes, memory, and mental speed by giving tests and grading the score. The ImPACT Test only takes twenty to thirty minutes. A baseline test is taken before the sports season starts, and another test is taken after a trauma to the head. The administrator then analyzes the information from these tests in order to properly protect the athlete. The test consists of several sections, for example in one in which either a blue square or a red circle is repeatedly flashed on the screen. If a blue square is shown, the test taker presses “p” on the keyboard, where as if a red circle is shown, the test taker presses “q” on the keyboard. This section simply but accurately tests reflexes, and shows how helpful the ImPACT test is in diagnosing concussions.
After being shown how beneficial the ImPACT could be, I wanted it to be brought to my school. I felt that my classmates should be protected from what happened to me. Dr. Hotz did a PowerPoint presentation for my school’s athletic director, trainer, and some coaches, and everyone in the room was excited to bring ImPACT to Ransom Everglades School. In this meeting, the athletic director stated his desire for the school to donate money to a public school because of the public schools have large athletic programs but tight budgets.
This idea of providing education and ImPACT testing to public high schools snowballed into my project, Countywide Concussion Care. For the past several months I have been working to provide ImPACT Testing and concussion education the public high schools of Miami Dade County.
I kicked off Countywide Concussion Care with an assembly at my school. Dr. Hotz agreed to come and teach the students about what a concussion is and the risks of concussion. Dr. Hotz is the head of the KiDZ Neuroscience Center at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, so she helped me get Marc Buonoconti, president of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and cover story subject for the August 24, 2009 edition of Sports Illustrated, to speak at the assembly about the importance of preventing neurological injuries. I told my story in front of my peers, announced my goal of raising $20,000 dollars for the year in order to get the project going, and started a raffle fundraiser. At the end of this school fundraiser, I had raised $8,000. I continued my efforts to raise money via solicitations.
My initial goal has become a reality. I have raised over $35,000 aimed towards preventing the damage of concussions in high school athletics. I spoke in front of the PE teacher of the public schools of Miami Dade County and informed of my story and concussions. I spoke in front of the athletic directors and athletic trainers of Miami Dade County about my story in a meeting in which it was announced that the public schools would be ImPACT Tested for Spring Football of this school year and Boys Soccer, Girls Soccer, and Football next Fall. As the concussion prevention program continues to become an established entity, more and more sports will be able to be incorporated in the program. This is important because concussions can occur in any sport, such as volleyball and sailing. This year thousands of Florida high school athletes in a wide variety of sports have been ImPACT tested. Two thousand of those athletes were football players.
I also was a spokesperson for the effort to pass Youth Concussion Legislation that unanimously passed through both houses of the Florida Legislature this year. Over the past two years, I have visited Tallahassee and met with several State Senators and Representatives to promote the bill, telling them my story and the importance of concussion education and management. In September, Governor Rick Scott paid a visit to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis to sign the bill into law.
Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami and Rep. Ronald Renuart of Ponte Vedra Beach sponsored the bill to protect young athletes (HB291, SB256). The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) is now required to adopt policies informing youth athletes and parents of the nature and risk of head injuries. Athletes also need a parental consent form before practicing or competing. Players sustaining a suspected head injury are immediately suspended from play until receiving clearance from a qualified medical professional. The Brain Injury Association of Florida, National Football League, FHSAA, and a statewide Sports Concussion Task Force of medical experts, athletic officials and health care providers supported the bill.
Today, I am a smarter player, I know how to reduce the risk, and I am not reckless. I wear a rugby helmet when I practice or play. I know the signs of concussion. I have the support of concussion specialists. But I learned the hard way and it didn’t have to be that way. I had never had to suffer the way I did.
That’s why I support the sports concussion legislation — because it is about education and trying to prevent serious or permanent brain damage by keeping an injured player from going back in the game too soon. I was one of the lucky ones. I am aware of other athletes that have not been so fortunate. Schools, coaches, parents and players should support this legislation because it can mean the difference between staying out for just a game or being out of play forever with problems that affect your overall quality of life.
Once again, thank you very much for visiting Countywide Concussion Care. If you wish to donate, which would be much appreciated, or if you have any questions please contact me. Thank you.