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A concussion cautionary tale
Boy returns to field after long recovery
Martin WEB 1
Will Martin, center, warms up with teammates during a recent practice at Midway Park. Martin suffered a concussion after a bicycling incident in September. He is now recovered and back to playing ball. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Nine-year-old Will Martin loves baseball.

“Nothing can keep him from playing,” said his mother, Michele Martin. “He just loves it so much.”

While today he’s happy spending many hours a week batting and rounding the bases for the Midway Rangers, a few months ago he had to cut his fall baseball season short.

Like thousands of children around the country each year, he suffered a concussion.

Michele Martin said her son was visiting a friend in September, when he “jumped on a dirt bike without thinking to put on a helmet.” He ended up colliding with a chain length fence and hitting his head.

She said she took him to the Forsyth location of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at The Avenue on Highway 141.

“He got 13 sutures for the cut on the top of his head,” she said, but noted that he didn’t show any signs of a concussion.

As the week progressed, however, things changed.

“This normally happy, smiley, never-in-a-bad-mood kid became irritable and difficult to please,” she said, adding he was also tired all the time and had dark circles under his eyes. He was just not himself.”

Luckily, his baseball coach, Larry Hall, works in Children’s neurological area.

“Larry kept telling me, ‘Don’t bring him to practice even to watch,’” Michele Martin said. “He also advised me to take him to his pediatrician.”

When he went there, the child was unable to pass a balance test, and was then referred to Andrew Reisner, medical director of Children’s concussion program.

“They found that Will did have a concussion and needed not just physical rest, but complete cognitive rest to heal,” Michele Martin said.

Reisner said it’s important for parents to be aware of concussions, especially during spring, with sports and outdoor play in full swing.

“Concussions are very prevalent in all ages,” he said. “We see them a lot, especially in competitive sports, but there are also many non-sporting occasions.”

Just as Michele Martin did, Reisner advised parents of a child who suffers any sort of head injury to keep a close watch.

“Of course, we can’t take a child to the emergency room or doctor for every fall or injury, but it’s important to watch them closely and make sure they don’t develop any symptoms,” he said. “And if they do, they should be taken right away.”

Reisner said symptoms of a concussion can include: Being dizzy or confused; headache or neck pain; nose or ear drainage; weakness in the arms or legs; changes in personality or academic performance; fatigue; and in some cases, seizures.

It’s a misnomer, he added, that one should fear concussion only if consciousness is lost. Although if someone does go unconscious, it’s more likely he has suffered a concussion.

Reisner also said coaches should be aware of concussion risks.

“Any time a child has any sort of head injury in a game, they should sit the rest of the game out,” Reisner said, noting that impacts of concussions can be cumulative.

“A child needs time to completely heal after their first injury and if they don’t get that, the consequences can be exponential.”  

As for Will Martin, he spent a full week out of school and then went back for a week of half-days.

“He had to have complete cognitive rest the first week,” Michele Martin said. “That meant no TV, no reading, nothing like that at all. That’s hard to do with a 9-year-old, but it was very important.”

He’s since made a full recovery and was able to return to his beloved baseball.

Michele Martin cautioned parents to be aware of concussions and how to prevent them.

“The most important things are: make sure they always wear helmets and if they have any sort of injury while playing sports, pull them out of the game,” she said, noting her son seems to have learned both those lessons.

“I heard him tell his cousin to always wear his helmet because getting a concussion is not cool.”