The Hidden Injury: All parties involved can benefit from education

There’s a certain level of irony in the title of this series: “The Hidden Injury.”

Its initial meaning was from the fact that most concussions won’t show up on a CT scan. Instead, they must be diagnosed with a thorough neurological exam.

But the title took on a whole new life when I sat down with the Hafner family to discuss Ethan’s encounters with the injury.

Both of Ethan’s parents are teachers – Beth at Clinton Community College, Craig at Fulton Elementary School. Despite the recent explosion of news coverage after the unfortunate deaths of such NFL alumni as Junior Seau and former Bear Dave Duerson, the Hafners were in the dark about concussions.

Not surprising. After all, not all of us watch ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” every day. And, without impetus, who sits at their computer and Googles “concussion symptoms” during their free time?

That’s the unfortunate nature of the digital age in which we live. There’s a ton of information out there. Just ask Beth, who’s uncovered more info on the subject of concussions than she ever could have imagined. But it easily gets lost in the congested wilderness that is the Internet.

So much great information, so invisible until you need it.

Now that Beth’s uncovered the treasure trove that is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she and Craig are preaching the gospel to anyone who will listen or could be helped.

That includes some of those in the medical industry who still reside in the dark ages.

Ethan was diagnosed at Morrison Family Clinic with a mild concussion and advised to take it easy the rest of the day and to not play sports for 1 week. They were told if any other symptoms arose, or existing ones got worse, to call their family physician.

The Hafners say they received no other information or restrictive advice.

While that’s troubling when you consider the work others in the area are doing, what’s worse is the reaction Beth received when she passed along her own findings.

She sent a link from to the clinic that describes posters and other products clinics can order that detail the proper rehabilitation plan for someone who has suffered a concussion.

She received a defensive phone call back.

“I said if they use the term brain injury, parents would take it more seriously,” Beth said. “[The caller] said, it’s not a brain injury, it’s a mild concussion.”

Yep, you read that right.

I asked Morrison Community Hospital’s director of communications, Chad Haskell, about the that blatantly false statement and the handling of Ethan’s injury.

“As a community hospital, we are focused on continuous improvement, and we are continuously enhancing our education opportunities,” he said.

Clearly, information about concussions isn’t something that needs to reach only athletes, coaches and parents. There are many in the medical field who also might need enlightenment.

“Absolutely, and I hope that heightened awareness will help us immensely,” said Dr. Joseph Welty, a family practice physician at KSB Hospital and the Hafners’ family doctor. “I couldn’t agree more.”

That’s the purpose of this series. Not to unnecessarily frighten the public, but to inform them that fear isn’t necessary about concussions, if you’re well-informed.