Kevin Drake is living proof of the damage a concussion can cause. During his years as an amateur and later as a professional athlete, he’s had 10 of them.
“I live with the aftermath of that every single day of my life,” Drake said. Now he has migraines that last four to five days and has suffered from debilitating headaches for the past 14 years.
Drake is a former quarterback and wide receiver for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He played four seasons in the NFL and two summers for NFL Europe. Today, Drake is program director of the WiseUp! Initiative, an organization that brings awareness and education on the various dangers and issues surrounding concussions, as well as raising research funding for the advancement in concussion research. He will be speaking at the third annual Concussion Summit on Friday, April 15 at Children’s of Alabama. Hosted by the Concussion Task Force at Children’s and the Wise Up! Initiative, the day-long conference is open to the public and will include presentations targeting coaches, athletic directors and trainers, school leaders and nurses and parents.
Drake suffered his first concussion at age 12 when he was hit in the face with a baseball during a game. More concussions followed, and “none of them were treated properly. Today, we know too much to keep doing the same things. We didn’t rest and went right back in the game. We know now how dangerous that was.”
As a former player, he understands how hard it can be to admit you may be hurt. “When you’re part of a team, you don’t want to let your teammates down, but it’s a mistake if you stay in the game. You have to make the decision to tell your coaches and pull yourself out of the game,” Drake said.
One of his goals with his concussion training sessions is to help young athletes understand just how serious concussions are. “Let’s call it what it really is. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury.” Drake said concussions are an “invisible injury.” You can see a broken arm or a broken leg, but “you can’t see a concussion. I wish we could because that would show the seriousness,” Drake said.
Drake tells players that they need to be on the lookout for any of their teammates who may get hurt during a game. Sometimes the injury may occur on a part of the field where the coaches don’t have the best view of the play. “You’re now liable for your buddy. Peers need to look out for their peers on the field. You train as a team, and you need to take care of each other,” Drake said. “I want these kids to understand how dangerous it is not to say something.”
It’s important for young players to speak up for themselves or their teammates because once you’ve had a concussion, the chances of future concussions increase. “There’s a very high chance a concussion can cause permanent damage. It’s just not worth it,” Drake said.
If your child does experience a concussion, it’s important that they be seen by someone trained in current concussion care practices, Drake said. The Concussion Clinic at Children’s of Alabama was established to provide evaluation, treatment and medical clearance for “return to play” and “return to think” for youth and teenage athletes in our community. The clinic is staffed by skilled athletic trainers, nurses and physicians from Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine and Sports Medicine with support from Neurosurgery, Emergency Medicine and Neuropsychology. These specialists work together to optimize the management of children and adolescents who have suffered a concussion.
The dangers of concussions have attracted a lot of recent media attention as current and former players have come forward with stories of how concussions have impacted their lives. “We’ve come so far in terms of concussion awareness and medical research, but there’s still a long way to go,” Drake said.
For more information about the Wise Up! Initiative and their educational programs, visit www.wiseupinitiative.org.
For more information about the Concussion Clinic at Children’s of Alabama or to register for the Concussion Summit, visit http://www.childrensal.org/concussion