May 23, 2019
When Lucas Nelson, a junior outfielder for Shawnee Mission West High School, dove for the baseball during a game, he had no idea it would result in injury.
"I was in center field. It was during the third or fourth inning of the game. The ball landed between center and right field. I dove for it, and my face hit the left fielder's knee," Lucas explains.
Overcoming a traumatic event
His father, Roger Nelson, was in the stands. He immediately took Lucas to the emergency room, where his injured cheek and swollen lip were repaired. After the procedure, Lucas went home to rest. It wasn't until he returned to school a couple of days later that he started experiencing symptoms of a concussion: headache, fogginess, nausea, dizziness and sensitivity to light. The Shawnee Mission West athletic trainer, Ryan Sloop, MS, ATC, LAT, recommended he see David Smith, MD, at The University of Kansas Health System to determine the cause of his symptoms.
"We were able to get Lucas in quickly to see Dr. Smith for a neurological evaluation," says Roger. "He was very kind, honest and shared a lot of information with Lucas and me about his work with concussions. He evaluated Lucas by asking him a series of cognitive questions and had him perform some physical tests to see if they had any impact on his vision and equilibrium. These tests allowed him to give us the concussion diagnosis."
Following the doctor's orders
Dr. Smith instructed Lucas to take time to recover at home. This included resting his brain, limiting his time on electronic devices, sleeping and proper nutrition. In Lucas' case, he says, these recommendations were critical in helping him recovery quickly.
"Lucas' situation was very unique. He not only has a history of migraine headaches, but he's also had 2 concussions in the past. These are both risk factors for a more complex recovery. In addition to my recommendations, I also reassured him he would be okay, which minimized the anxiety many concussion patients feel," Dr. Smith explains.
With the support of both his doctor and parents, Lucas returned to his school shortly after his diagnosis. Three weeks later, he was recovered and back to doing what's important to him: playing baseball and maintaining his 4.7 GPA.
Both Lucas and his father are very grateful for Dr. Smith and the entire concussion team at The University of Kansas Health System.
"We couldn't have asked for a better experience. Dr. Smith was very accommodating. He and his staff created all the necessary documentation to forward to our school nurse, his athletic trainer and administrators regarding necessary accommodations at school, such as reduced workload, breaks and activity limitation. This really allowed Lucas to focus on recovering," Roger says.
Lucas agrees. "Dr. Smith was very helpful throughout the entire process. His recommendations and reassurance allowed me to heal quickly. My advice to other concussion patients is to follow the protocols your doctor gives you because they will help you recover and get back on the field faster."
Dr. Smith believes following a plan created by a trained concussion physician is the key to a successful recovery.
"Any athlete who has experienced event trauma and exhibits concussion symptoms, such as a headache, dizziness and fogginess, should see a trained medical professional. Lucas was a champion and followed all of the necessary steps, which allowed him to recover in 23 days, despite having a history of migraines and concussions," Dr. Smith says.