In response to AB 25, all Davis High School athletes are now required to participate in baseline cognitive testing before their sports seasons begin, which will be used as a starting point for post-injury testing, status assessment and recovery. In addition, athletes are monitored more closely for head trauma and — should a concussion occur — are insured for immediate treatment.
Kolby Butcher had a lot to look forward to. The Del Oro High School junior was doing well in school and excelling in both football and rugby. Then Butcher began experiencing a host of unexplained and frightening symptoms. He had persistent headaches and frequent mood swings. He was struggling to concentrate in class.
“I had like 95 in all of my classes,” Butcher says. “And then from that point on just F’s on everything. All my math tests just failed. Everything went downhill.”
Finally, doctors diagnosed his problem: Butcher had suffered not one, but several concussions while playing sports. He was just the latest statistic in what’s being seen as a serious and growing medical problem.
“Sidelined: Concussions in Sports,” produced by KVIE Public Television, features both local high school athletes and former NFL players who have suffered concussions or sports injuries. The half-hour program premieres at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, on KVIE Channel 6 and will air a second time at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23.
The program also follows Davis High School cheerleader Summer Yeo and retired St. Francis High School soccer player Jessica Cosca, both of whom have been concussed.
In “Sidelined,” California lawmakers and medical experts discuss what they are doing to keep athletes safe on and off the field. Their efforts are helping California develop landmark legislation and pioneer safety measures that, they hope, become a national trend.
For Butcher, the diagnosis meant he was permanently sidelined from any sports. Even now, he struggles with grades and maintaining his GPA. Butcher says if an athlete thinks he’s been concussed, he shouldn’t hesitate to get help.
“Help yourself, really. … People will tell you that you’re fine … but you’re the only one that knows how you feel,” he said. “You’re your own advocate.”
Former San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle George Visger and Dallas Cowboys’ Doug Cosbie also share their life experiences after football in the program. Visger’s NFL career ended in 1981 during the NFC Championship game after he suffered a concussion. He believes the hit was made by Cosbie.
The former adversaries are now using their stories to help educate people about sports-induced concussions. Visger has undergone nine brain surgeries and still struggles with his memory. He uses notebooks to log everything he has been doing for the past 28 years.
The program provides a glimpse into the Sacramento Valley Concussion Care Consortium, a grassroots effort spearheaded by medical experts working to address concussions. Doctors with Kaiser Permanente, UC Davis Health System, Sutter Health and Mercy/Dignity Health make up the consortium, along with business leaders.
“A lot of these doctors volunteer their time to go out to these games on the weekend, at night, or evenings,” said producer Kelly Peterson said. “They spend many hours volunteering their time to make sure athletes are safe. It’s nice to see them getting some recognition — to see how much they’re doing to help our community.”
California Assembly member Mary Hayashi also talks about two bills she authored:
* AB 25, one of the toughest return-to-play laws in the nation. It requires student athletes who suffer from a concussion to get written approval from a doctor or health care professional before returning to the game; and
* AB 1451, requiring high school coaches to get first-aid training in concussions. It goes into effect in January.
“So much has changed over the last five, 10 years with concussions — what’s happening on and off the field. We wanted to revisit and see what’s being done because of all the changes being made,” Peterson said. “The goal is not for this program to scare or push people away. They’re all great games, and we hope this program educates and brings awareness about the severity of concussion.”