MOUNT VERNON — As Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets football safety Colton Walker was coming off the field during their second game of the 2011 season at Cambridge, it was becoming clear that there was something wrong.
“The only thing I remember was coming downhill, hitting the running back, getting up and everything was just blurry and spinning,” recalled Walker. “Coach called us in. I told coach what was wrong and he said, ‘Go see Meghan.’”
Walker was sent over to Mount Vernon High School and Mohican Sports Medicine (MSM) athletic trainer Meghan Elliott, who was there with the team that evening.
“He came over to the bench, we evaluated him after he came out,” said Elliott. “We asked him some questions to get an idea of what his symptoms were at that point. His symptoms and what he was feeling were red flags that he probably did sustain a concussion.”
It was already clear that Walker was through for the game.
“(Meghan) asked me a few questions — I don’t know what they were,” said Walker. “Then, I threw up and then, I don’t remember anything until I was on the bus and on my way home. All I remember was texting my girlfriend. That was it.”
With the Labor Day holiday that weekend, Walker went home with his parents who followed some very sound advice.
“I had to go home and I had to stay awake for a certain amount of hours to make sure nothing was wrong,” said Walker. “The next day, I talked to the trainer, briefly. I talked to my coach and he told me I was to relax and then drink a lot of water.”
Like all of his teammates, Walker had undergone preseason testing by the personnel of MSM. This testing, which was done at the school, provided benchmarks for physicians and athletic trainers after Walker was injured.
“I did the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test during preseason a few weeks before we started hitting,” said Walker. “Before you start hitting, they can get an idea of how fast reaction time and memory are. They want to see how your brain is functioning before you get a big hit. Later on (after an injury) you can go back and take the test to see if your brain is functioning like it was before.”
That type of testing is crucial in determining the health of the concussion patient.
“That test gives a number about his brain activity, when functioning normally,” said Elliott. “When he retakes that test and gets back to that baseline number or better, he can start returning to his activities.”
Walker went right back to Mohican after the Labor Day weekend to get retested.
“My trainer got the test back and she said, ‘Yeah, you’ve got a pretty bad concussion,’” said Walker. “From there, I went to the doctor.”
“I wasn’t allowed to do anything at all for a week, except walk around and help people during practice,” said Walker. “After that first week, my headaches stopped. I worked out all of next week — running and lifting — but if I got any headaches, I had to stop.”
Later tests showed that Walker’s brain activity had returned to normal.