If someone asked which high school sport has the most reported concussions, you would likely say football and you would be right.
But what about the sport with the second-highest number? In Denton ISD, that would be volleyball.
During a recent school board meeting, Denton ISD athletic director Joey Florence presented the department’s annual report, which includes concussion statistics for all middle school and high school campuses.
Denton ISD 2017-18 Concussions
The number of diagnosed concussions in the district declined from 64 in the 2016-17 school year to 54 in 2017-18. Florence contributed the drop to medical advances and stricter protocols.
“Coaches have always cared about the kids and cared about their safety,” he said at the meeting. “We’re just getting smarter about it.”
Football players sustained the most concussions in any sport last year. Coaches reported 26 for the season, falling by two cases from the previous year.
Volleyball came in second with 12 concussions and soccer was third with seven. Those two sports both recorded 14 concussions each during the 2016-17 year.
Guyer volleyball coach Heather Van Noy, whose team reported four concussion cases last year, said warm-ups before a game can be hazardous.
“You have two teams with anywhere from 24 to 40 kids warming up in the same, probably 3,000-square-foot area with 24 to 40 volleyballs being hit around,” Van Noy said. “We are very aware of where are kids are and what they’re doing, so we do everything we can to protect them and put them in a position to where they are protected. But, yeah, those 3,000 square feet for those 20 minutes are a dangerous place to be.”
Van Noy also noted her department will report concussions that players sustained in club volleyball outside of the school’s athletic department. They must complete the district’s concussion recovery training before being allowed to play in a school game, she said.
“We do everything we can to combat concussions, but anytime a kid feels a little weird after being hit wrong or running into somebody, we go into full concussion protocol mode because we do not take chances in my program,” she said.
Florence said the district employs a concussion oversight team that consists of a licensed physician and two certified athletic trainers on each high school campus.
If a coach, doctor, trainer or parent believes an athlete sustained a concussion, the athlete is pulled out of the practice or game and cannot return to play that day.
In previous years, athletes could keep playing if their concussion symptoms went away after 15 minutes, but Florence said the brain can’t recover that quickly, so that policy was scrapped.
“We’ve run into kids who don’t want to come out of the game,” he said. “We’ve run into parents who don’t want their kid out of the game and say, ‘Coach, he’s fine.’”
After exhibiting symptoms, athletes must go through a five-step process that usually lasts five days.
They’ll start off with light aerobic exercise, then move onto non-contact drills like weight lifting and then join full-contact practice. Once they get medical clearance, they can start playing in games.
The number of concussions in Denton ISD has fallen even as participation spikes.
According to numbers in the annual report, 7,509 students in the seventh through 12th grades participated in school-sponsored sports last year. That’s up 2,752 kids from the previous year’s report.
Boys sports had 1,641 more athletes participate, while girls sports saw an increase of 1,111 athletes.
Florence said this year’s report had more accurate numbers than past years because participation was reported directly by individual coaches, but the increase was still apparent.
“We obviously grew at Braswell [High School] and Rodriguez Middle School,” he said, referencing the district’s two newest campuses. “We’re growing at every school.”