New concussion law helping Arizona athletes

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“I was hit from behind,” Brayton Vangotum said. “I was about five feet from the boards and I went head and shoulder first in and I was laying there and blacked out.”

Vangotum was rushed to a Valley hospital after he lost consciousness. He took an illegal hit during a hockey game earlier this year. The Peoria High School student suffered a concussion as a result.
“Really bad headaches and really bad migraines,” Vangotum said. “It was so bad that my teeth hurt and one day I saw spots.”

The 17-year-old went to Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's hospital.

“He did like a baseline test of neurological movements standing on one leg, closing his eyes, being able to move,” Vangotum’s dad Bill said.

He knew his son could face a series of problems if he returned to play before symptoms from his concussion cleared up.

“My worries were not just getting him back on the ice right away that was the farthest from my mind,” Vangotum’s dad said. “My worry was 20, 25, 30, 40 years down the road.”

Going back before you've recovered from your concussion is the worst thing you can do because you’re more susceptible to suffer a second concussion,” child neurologist Javier Cardenas said. “With a second concussion rarely you can have brain swelling or death, but most often you have symptoms and sometimes they turn into permanent problems.”

Doctor Cardenas treated Vangotum. He didn't clear him to return full time on the ice until April.

“You can't just draw a line in the sand and say tomorrow you can go back, or at one week or two weeks you can go back,” Cardenas said. “Everybody heals differently.”

Now it's practically impossible for any young athlete to get to their sport too quickly thanks to a new Arizona law. The youth concussion law protects kids from concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.

“You have to remove a child from play, practice or a game if they suffer a concussion,” Cardenas said. “They have to be cleared by a physician before they go back to play and all of this has to do with the safety of the athlete.”

Not only do athletes have to be cleared by a physician to go back to playing, they along with coaches and parents are educated on just how serious sports related brain injuries can be.

“There is a lot of pressure from coaches, athletes, parents and I think having this process will alleviate a lot of that pressure knowing that everyone has to go through the same steps,” Cardenas said.

“If they didn't pass that bill, I would have went right back,” Vangotum said. “And if it wasn't for my dad, I would have gone back and played.”


BRAINS Clinic at Barrow:

Dr. Javier Cardenas, Neurology:

Contact Information: 
For more information, please call 602-406-HEAD (4323).