Football Mom Throws Her Support Behind New Concussion Law

Michele Findysz's son, Wally, suffered what was believed to be a concussion last season playing football at Chicago Christian. He returned to play, but only after passing a CT scan.

Nobody wants to see a high school football player hurt, and now more than ever, new safety precautions are taking the place of old concussion tests.

Know this: It doesn’t cut it anymore for a fuzzy footballer to count raised fingers on the sideline and then get the OK to trot back onto the field.

Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed legislation requiring Illinois student-athletes who leave a game with a concussion to be medically cleared before returning to practice or playing in future games. Quinn’s move put more teeth into similar action taken by the Illinois High School Association.

The news might ease the anxiety felt by some moms on the sidelines.

"I'm all for it," said football mom Michele Findysz. She describes her worries as typical. She is relatively new to the game and frets over the health and well-being of players as she watches the action unfold from a seat on the bleachers.

Her son, Wally, is a 5-8, 165-pound junior running back and free safety at Chicago Christian High School. He suffered what was believed to be a concussion during a game last season.

Then, Wally Findysz was battling in the trenches for the Knights. And he often was matched up against opponents much bigger than himself.

"That was kind of scary," Findysz. "Not for him. But I get nervous when they're going against guys that are clearly bigger. He thinks he is invincible."

Findysz said she and her husband took Wally to see their regular physician after last season's incident. He was hit in a game, dazed and confused. He was sent to a specialist for a CT scan.

"Everyone was calling it a concussion because his pupils were so large at the time," Michele Findysz said. "We don't know for sure whether it was a concussion or just one of those 'stingers.' The CT scan came back fine. There was no blood. That's all I cared about. He was cleared."

Wally Findysz has dreams and aspirations of playing college football. For now, he is focusing on his junior year with the Knights as well as new techniques he's picking up in practice.

"I know we were talking with our son after (football) camp one day," Michele Findysz said. "He said their new coach () is teaching them not to lead with their helmets. He's been teaching them to learn to tackle the right way so they don't suffer head injuries."

And, yet, head injuries are an inevitable part of football. New safety precautions are aimed at cutting down on potential disasters.

“Given what experts are continuing to learn about the short- and long-term dangers associated with concussions, it’s imperative that rules be in place to protect the safety of student-athletes,” said Kurt Gibson, the IHSA’s associate executive director.

“Requiring them (student-athletes) to get written clearance from a physician licensed to practice medicine … will help protect student-athletes from greater risk and exposure to second-impact head injuries.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations estimates about 140,000 students who play high school sports have concussions every year. Statistics show concussions and head injuries aren't limited to football. They are common in other sports, too, such as lacrosse, soccer and wrestling.

“I believe the object of the new rules is to try to ensure the safety of the student-athletes,” Lincoln-Way West High School athletic director Ted Robbins said. “There is no doubt that because of the advances in technology and sports medicine we are able to better evaluate and diagnose not only concussions, but all types of athletic injuries.

“Our goal is the safety of our student-athletes. If we can help to prevent some concussions through improved parent, coach and athletic education, and improved diagnostic tools, then we are working toward achieving that goal.”

Robbins brings a unique perspective to the concussion dialogue, one born from his days working as an athletic trainer on the sidelines, his every move scrutinized under the glare of those Friday night lights.

“It used to be that when athletes were ‘dinged’ in practice or a game, most of the time the coach was the one determining when the athlete was able to return to play,” Robbins said. “Many times, if the athlete ‘cleared up’ and was able to answer some basic questions, (he or she) was allowed to return to play.

“The policy now in place will hopefully eliminate this from happening on a consistent basis.”

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Jenny C August 26, 2011 at 05:52 PM
You're 100% right, Kathy. I, for one, am tired of the nanny state. I do not want any more decisions taken out of my hands. I can decide what is best for my children and for those parents who are not wise or strong-willed enough, shame on them.
Ron Kremer August 26, 2011 at 09:57 PM
It seems to me common sense tells us there is no such thing as common sense in these type situations. We have laws that mandate we wear seat belts and follow speed limits (though some choose to ignore them). Why not law to help protect the safety of student athletes?
Rebecca Wharrie August 26, 2011 at 10:44 PM
I wonder if the law will make a difference in the long run. My 9 year old suffered a severe concussion tripping and hitting his head at the concession stand while on a break from being the ball boy at a high school game. We took him to the ER that night and were told that he could go back to football in a week. A friend urged me to go to a specialist at Oak Orthopedic. His concussion was so severe that he was out for the season. He's my third child and I've learned more about head injuries over the years, but a couple years back I would have taken the ER's advice and had him back on the field in a week. I think whether there is a law or not, mistakes will be made until parents are fully educated on the subject and seek expert, medical advice. It stinks to tell your kid their out for the season, but as the specialist told me, it's better than him dying a sudden death on the field or suffering permanent brain damage. I wish more efforts could be made to make the sport safer for people of all age; that's where our time and money should ultimately be spent.
Kathy Quilty August 27, 2011 at 12:33 AM
First, let me say, I think it is good that the players must see a doctor, but I have seen coaches & parents push the players back into the game too soon. Again, common sense tells a parent to take their child to a doctor. My kids play soccer and I have seen players get hurt and the kids are right back there on the field. My son fell off the couch onto my cement basement floor when he was 6. We immediately took him to the ER. He had a concussion. I did not need a law to tell me to take him. I have common sense (and insurance which may be why some parents don't take their kids -- but IHSA requires all athletes to have their own medical insurance or you can purchase it from them/school).
Lorraine Swanson August 27, 2011 at 08:45 AM
Don't ever fool around with a head injury, especially a concussion. Better to error on the side of caution and make sure that a student athlete is healthy to a point where it's safe to for him/her to reenter the game.


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