Cheryl Wellum’s 16-year-old son Ryan Hartford had played football for years. But two weeks ago, after a practice with his team at Bloomington High School South, he had to stop playing.
“He texted me saying, ‘my head really hurts. I got hit. I don’t know remember what’s going on, and all of the words were misspelled.’ And I immediately called the coach saying take my son out of football practice today, there’s something wrong,” Wellum says.
Wellum was right—her son had a concussion, and he now deals with such bad memory loss that he can’t remember his freshman year or even parts of his childhood.
Injuries like Ryan’s inspired an Indiana law that requires coaches to sideline players with concussion symptoms. Under the law that went into effect this year, coaches will have to bench players they see displaying symptoms of a concussion.
Speaking Friday on WFIU’s Noon Edition, Indiana Athletic Trainers Association President Scott Lawrance says the law has brought more attention to the issue, even though he says he’d like to see it expanded to cover younger sports teams.
“The law actually does not cover middle school athletes. At this point the coverage only applies to high school athletes, and that just goes back to the language that’s written into the law,” he says.
A change like that could have protected Cheryl Wellum’s son Ryan, who has been playing football since he was in middle school. Wellum says the information her son’s school provided to parents and players this year was much better than in past years.
“When he first started in junior high, we weren’t provided any, any information about concussions,” he says. “They just figured oh, they got hit a little bit, they’ll be fine.”
Wellum says the new procedures helped her identify her son’s concussion. And she says doctors are keeping a careful eye on Ryan’s condition in hopes that it improves in the coming weeks. Still, he will not be able to play any more contact sports while he is in high school.