Concussions having impact beyond the field for Oklahoma student athletes

TULSA - An estimated 100,000 students receive concussions each year, yet medical research is still limited.

In August, Oklahoma schools were mandated to start tracking student athletes; since then 2NEWS has been following the progress and has now learned the impact could reach far off the field.

Ossie Martindale is a sophomore at Bixby High School. Meeting him for the first time, he seems to be a typical 16-year-old. But in the past year, Ossie has overcome more than most of his classmates. His sophomore year hasn't gone exactly how he'd planned.

The trouble began at a typical September football practice.

"He hit me full speed, helmet to helmet." explained Ossie. "I remember coughing and it felt like my head had just exploded."

Ossie had a concussion. His second major concussion in just three weeks. His fifth in the past few years.

"I could tell when I showed up in the locker room he was having some problems." said Ossie's father, Keith Martindale.

Ossie had the typical symptoms, headaches, dizziness, fatigue; but what he wasn't prepared for was the impact his concussion would have in the classroom.

"It was extremely frustrating because I had never been in that situation in my life before where school was a struggle," said Ossie.

His teachers noticed the change as well.

"He for awhile, was a completely different student, even different personality wise," said Ossie's math teacher, Sue Ward.

Ossie's concussion was severe.

Dr. Troy Glaser specializes in orthopedic and sports medicine, and over the past several years concussions have become a top priority at his practice.

"Brain processing functions have slowed down drastically from a concussion," explained Dr. Glaser. "We don't know right now the effects of one to two concussions on a young person how that's gonna affect them when they are 30 or 40."

The American Academy of Neurology is currently rewriting it's sports concussion parameters from 1997.

With increasing scientific knowledge on the topic, a 12-member committee hopes to publish new data and recommendations in November.

"We knew we were in for a long uphill battle," said Ossie's dad, Keith.

For several weeks after the concussion, Ossie was not himself. School was tough. Sleeping was tough. All of his normal activities came to a halt.

"I couldn't concentrate, had a lot of anxiety because of all the people around me it was really bothering me," said Ossie about his time in school.

According to a recent study, boys reported more cognitive symptoms, similar to what Ossie was experiencing, girls reported more neurobehaviorial and somatic symptoms like drowsiness and sensitivity to light.

To cope, Ossie's parents and school administrators put him on a half day schedule. He would attend class in the morning and go home at lunch.

Teachers at Bixby High School are learning to adjust to the growing number of student concussions.

"This fall I had three kids with concussions. I don't think in all my 30 years teaching I don't know if I've had three kids in all that time." said Ward.

Under state law each school district now has a concussion policy, and many schools like Bixby use the impact test to help determine if or when a player can return.

"His IQ was 30 points lower after the injury than before." said Keith Martindale.

Nearly five months after Ossie's last concussion he's back in school full-time and if you ask him he'll tell you he's almost 100%. But it's that "almost" that keeps him questioning.

"It can really affect someone's life. I mean if I chose to go play football again and get another one (concussion) it could be life altering," said Ossie.

A hard lesson to learn for a 16-year-old wanting to do more.

"It's a lot harder of a struggle than people think."



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