When Exeter High School senior Riley Haller began her freshman year of soccer, she had no inclination that she would only be eligible to play for half the season. A serious concussion, one of two that she has dealt with, ended her season early.
In late October, she found herself sidelined and unable to finish the season, along with a myriad of other side effects.
“The more serious one was my freshman year and I had to miss out on a lot of social events,” Haller said. “I fell very behind in school because I was out for three months.”
For those three months at home she was unable to read, watch television, use any electronic devices such as her phone, and she missed out on social events due to a sensitivity to light and sound.
Haller’s story is one that has become all too familiar in today’s society. Concussions among high school athletes have drawn more attention over the past few years in part due to the attention being brought to professional athletes who suffer from concussions and the difficulties that follow them.
In 2011, Pennsylvania passed the Safety in Youth Sports Act, effective July 2012, documenting the requirements for schools, student athletes, and the Departments of Health and Education when dealing with concussions in interscholastic athletics.
Therese Knabb, school nurse at Exeter High School, has noticed a change in the way the faculty and staff has handled students who have concussions. Caring for students with concussions has become somewhat easier in that the teachers know what to look for when a student is in class and they know how to handle the situation as a result of this law.
“I think we do a lot more than most schools do because we have Audrey who was part of the whole concussion training in Berks County,” Knabb said, referring to Exeter’s athletic trainer, Audrey Dickman. “The teachers are really well-versed on concussions in our school.”
Looking back at her freshman year of soccer, Haller noted that if she could go back the only thing she would do differently would be to duck.
“Playing soccer there’s always that risk, especially in that sport, just because there’s so much contact. There’s always the chance you could get hit in the face with the ball or you could fall,” Haller said.
Now a senior, Haller has not played soccer for Exeter since her sophomore season. Although she says another injury was the main cause of her not playing, the concussion from freshman year played a part in ending her time on the soccer field.
“With the concussion and another injury I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she said.
After spending three months sitting in the nurse’s office at school all day and being forced to drop classes as a result of the concussion, she doesn’t seem to harbor any hard feelings about what she went through as a freshman.
Haller’s advice to fellow high school athletes is simple: “You just have to be aware that it can happen.”