Athletic Management, 14.6, October/November 2002, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1406/bbcarey.htm
The news that former Stanford basketball star Jamie Carey will be suiting up for Texas this year has raised some eyebrows in the college athletic community. Carey started her career at Stanford in stellar fashion—she was named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2000 and set the school record for 3-pointers in a single season with 81.
But a concussion just before her sophomore year put her on the bench, and she ultimately sat out two years because of recurring concussions. During that time, Stanford doctors evaluated her on several occasions and decided she could not be cleared to play because of the problems she was having from her head injuries.
But they did suggest she visit specialists in Austin, Texas, who may be able to help. And help they did, reportedly working with her to regain full function and convincing the coaching and administrative staff at the University of Texas that she was healthy enough to play and in no more danger of lasting traumatic brain injury than anyone else.
In a press conference, Carey stated that the University of Texas doctors she’s been seeing had her perform mental exercises, which, along with the period of rest, have left her symptom-free for over a year. Those symptoms included “a lot of headaches and that type of thing,” she said. “It was hard to run without getting dizzy.”
But after working with her and evaluating her, Dr. Mark Chassay, team physician for women’s athletics at Texas, concluded that she was not only symptom-free, but that despite her history of concussions, she was not taking undue risk by playing again.
“Based on the last compilation of concussion work in the sports-related field, the question came up as to what is the risk,” says Dr. Chassay. “There is what I call a two-fold risk involved.”
The first part, he says, is whether someone with a history of concussions is at greater risk of future concussions. While there continues to be great debate in the field, research from the last year and a half has shown that the risk of someone with a history of concussions suffering a concussion may not be nearly as great as once believed—information the Stanford doctors (or anyone else, for that matter) did not have at the time.
The other half of the risk equation, according to Dr. Chassay, concerns long-term damage. But, he says, “There are no studies that show she is at risk for chronic brain injury.
“The key thing here is the resolution of symptoms,” he adds, “both from a subjective standpoint—meaning that she feels comfortable—and an objective standpoint—whether that is through a neurological exam or through some balance testing. Once those both are resolved, these people are not at risk.”
The decision to let her play was not a light one, however. In addition to therapy and Dr. Chassay’s tests, Larry Faulkner, the President of the University, and Patricia Ohlendorf, Vice President of Institutional Relations and Legal Affairs, were in on the discussions.
According to Tina Bonci, Head Athletic Trainer at Texas, the university has a system in place to handle any questions of whether an injured student-athlete can be cleared to play, and it was pushed to the test in Carey’s case. “We had to get another level of administration involved that we would not normally do in other cases,” she says.
“This was a very unusual case,” Bonci continues. “We looked at everything, across the continuum-anything that would concern us from a liability standpoint. Everything was looked at from every angle all the way up the hierarchy of our administration.”
And though the university cannot release complete details, it did set certain conditions for her to return to the hardwood. Those included asking her to sign a waiver that made sure “Jamie understood what her responsibilities were in regard to reporting stuff to us,” said Dr. Chassay.