South Carolina holds seminar on collision injuries

AP Sports Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Trainer Robbe Hedstrom carefully detailed the most painful moment of his athletic career when he watched a Cardinal Newman High School football player lay motionless in a remote summer camp as he and coaches scrambled to help.

"My mistakes," Hedstrom said Saturday, "almost cost a young man very dearly."

Hedstrom was among several presenters at a seminar on collision injuries put on by South Carolina's athletic and sports medicine departments. About 120 trainers, team doctors and other medical personnel attended the six-hour session at Williams-Brice Stadium. It included case studies from trainers at Georgia and Tennessee and lengthy discussions on treating, diagnosing and managing concussions.

Few presentations were more riveting that Hedstrom's remembrance of that 2004 incident when he was in his second year as trainer and the Cardinals went to a rural area for football camp. Hedstrom said the hit took place on the final session of the day and the player "dropped like a sack of potatoes."

The practice field was in a rural part of South Carolina where cellphone service was nonexistent and the closest hospital was 30 minutes away. Hedstrom had also failed to pack a spine board, an essential piece of equipment when dealing with a potential spine injury. It took nearly two hours for the teen to be taken by helicopter to a Columbia hospital.

Hedstrom told the group he failed to properly plan for the outing, talk to parents about their children's safety or alert local emergency personnel about Cardinal Newman's plans.

"I bet some of you are wondering how I still have my license," Hedstrom said.

That was much of the reason for hosting the seminar, said South Carolina medical director Dr. Jeffery Guy. High schools start football practice on Friday with colleges following soon after and the university wanted to share experiences and resources with all athletic trainers.

"We feel being a steward for the state is a very important part of what we do," Guy said.

George Wham, athletic trainer for Pelion High, said seminars like this spread proper and updated practices and guidelines to high schools, middle school and athletic club teams.

"It's a good opportunity to brush up on some things that you need to be thinking about and hearing some new stuff," he said.

The sessions covered all types of collision injuries, including damage to the eyes, the mouth and teeth and "stingers," the sharp pain felt after a hard hit where the player comes off the field with his arm and shoulder drooping.

Dr. Christopher Mazoue of the South Carolina School of Medicine was a former football player at Cornell and said he had at least 25 episodes of stinging pain, also called "burners," while playing for the Big Red.

In the past, Mazoue said coaches would mostly wait until such pain subsided and send the player back in. Now, a player with a history of such problems could be kept from the field. That was the case with the son of South Carolina's beloved Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers. Linebacker Tray Rogers gave up football after signing to play linebacker at South Carolina in 2003.

"And his dad totally agreed," Mazoue said.

Georgia athletic trainer Mike Dillon talked about the paralyzing injury in March to outfielder Johnathan Taylor, who was hurt in a head-to-head collision with a teammate. Dillon stressed having a plan in place to take care of the player, the family and the rest of the team. Taylor, who Dillon said is classified as a quadriplegic, is expected to return to Georgia for school in January.

Several presentations dealt with concussions.

"That's the hot topic," Guy said.

Things have changed since the days when players typically went right back in after getting their "bell rung," and sideline tests have advanced far past a trainer or assistant holding up some fingers for the affected player to guess before returning.

The new motto for concussions is "when in doubt, sit them out," said South Carolina Dr. Ramon Ylama.

That's becoming easier to do since many in the latest generation of coaches played the game with properly taught athletic trainers on the lookout for injuries, said Wham of Pelion High.

"I think coaches understand the role of the athletic trainer," he said. "I think it's a lot different than a generation earlier."

South Carolina trainer Clint Haggard showed how medical staff from the Gamecocks and Alabama worked together to help receiver Moe Brown, who was knocked unconscious during a game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2009. Both sides rushed Brown and in concert put him up on a spine board and took him from the field for examinations. Haggard said it comes from having previous relationships with his Alabama counterparts and talking to them before the game.

Hedstrom, the Cardinal Newman trainer, knows that as well as anyone. His player recovered and "walks and talks just like any of us here," he said. These days, Hedstrom leaves almost nothing to chance in prepping for practices and games.

"If you've got a plan," Hedstrom continued, "you'll be standing on firmer ground."

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