By Jim Misunas
LARNED — The first year of using new Riddell football helmets has been successful for Larned High School. The helmets are partially credited to reducing the number of apparent concussions from nine to one in one year.
A fundraiser coordinated through the Fort Larned Foundation for Education helped raise the $8,000 for 40 Riddell helmets which cost $200 apiece.
The Pawnee Valley Community Hospital is doing a presentation of “helmet” plaques at halftime of Friday’s Ulysses at Larned football game to those who donated to the fun run-walk “helmet” campaign.
After a series of football-related concussions in 2010, Larned High had committed to buying 16 new football helmets.
But Pawnee Valley Medical Associates and Pawnee Valley Sport & Spine Physical Therapy sponsored a successful race that raised $7,100. Matt Heyn, Pawnee Valley Community Hospital administrator, through Hays Medical Center, made a donation so that the $8,000 goal was reached.
Luke Geer, PT DPT, Pawnee Valley Sport & Spine, said proper equipment and proper technique are the keys to avoiding head injuries. Geer said the company’s research indicates the helmets reduce concussion by 33 percent.
“Now, we know the athletes have the best equipment we can buy,” he said. “Of course, having the best equipment and having proper technique helps to avoid concussions, but they can still happen. I have no doubt the measures we’ve taken have helped.’
Wayne Morrow, Larned’s athletic director, said coaching proper technique is the best way to prevent head injuries.
“We have the highest quality equipment we can buy, but there still can always be a serious injury,” he said. “With weight training and off-season work, the players are stronger and heavier than they’ve ever been at the high school level.”
Under the direction of Dr. David Sanger, Pawnee Valley Sport & Spine staff provide sports medicine services for the LHS football team. Erin Geer, PT DPT, serves as physical therapist and Luke Geer, PT DPT, serves as a physical therapist and rehab manager working with outpatient and inpatient physical therapy. Pawnee Valley Sport & Spine also employs Ashley Peitner, PT DPT, and Chelsea Bieberle, OTR/L.
Geer said football helmets must pass a safety inspection each year, but newer helmets simply provide better protection. He conducts an annual safety meeting with Larned High coaches, including identifying what to look for in possible concussions.
He said students also need to be educated about signs and symptoms of concussion so they are able to help protect their teammates. A normal evaluation would include determining the athlete’s level of orientation and questions to determine short-term memory and retention.
“In football, when we talk about a player getting ‘his bell rung,’ that is considered a concussion,” Geer said. “It’s always staying alert and being aware if a player is not doing well after a play in a football game.”