Murray Girl Scout calls for change in handling concussionsNov 01, 2022 08:27PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
Murray Girl Scout Relena Pattison was performing with the Murray High School Color Guard team in 2019 when one of her teammates got hit. During practice, her friend tossed a 45 (a toss above the head at a 45-degree angle) on a flag and hit herself on the side of the head.
“I’ve seen many injuries like this; drops on tosses are frequent, and I had a similar one myself when I got hit on the head with my rifle (a color guard prop),” Pattison said.
Twenty minutes later, her teammate started to black out—she had sustained a concussion.
“My friend still suffers from the long-term repercussions of her concussion, and we were very lucky that we caught her before she fell. I wanted to help prevent this from happening to anyone else,” Pattison said.
Her friend’s experience spurred Pattison to call for change in how the Utah Color Guard Circuit handles concussions. She applied her efforts to the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award a girl scout can earn. However, because the color guard isn’t classified as a sport, they don’t receive training for concussions, and she began to wonder if other teams also had this issue.
“In the fall of 2020, I ran a survey where I reached out to almost every Color Guard in Utah, asking several questions like: how many team members are there, how often does someone get a concussion, and how many members are able to identify a concussion? The results of my survey found that, in the state of Utah, around one in every three members know how to identify a concussion in themselves or others, while the rate of concussion is about one concussion per every 10 people per year, and only one out of the 20 teams who responded had training for the students,” Pattison said.
Pattison’s survey surprised her. She found that concussions are common among color guard teams and that a third of all teams know how to identify concussions.
“With my information, I reached out to the Utah Color Guard Circuit and shared my findings with them, as well as a connection to the training required for sports teams in Utah. Sadly, the Utah Color Guard Circuit determined this to not be a pressing issue, so no changes were made,” Pattison said.
The Utah Color Guard Circuit is a collection of guard teams in Utah run by a board of members who organize competitions and team requirements in the state of Utah, usually during the winter season. According to Pattison, the board saw this as an issue for individual schools/school districts, and the training should be controlled by them.
“Despite not getting global change, I didn’t give up, and instead created a website, howtocolorguard.org, with common symptoms and links to virtual training, and then shared this with the teams throughout Utah. I even received commitments from teams that they will start training students on the team,” Pattison said.
Pattison’s website explains her project and story. The main portion of the website is dedicated to common concussion symptoms and online training courses (with cited resources as well). She hopes the website can reach out to many members of the color guards and provide resources for them so that they will be able to help themselves and their teammates when they get a concussion, preventing the trauma from getting worse, such as in the case of passing out.
“While I wasn’t able to get the systemic change I was seeking, I was able to light the sparks for change and give resources to those who need it,” Pattison said.
Her efforts won’t be unproductive, as her website and advocacy for concussion awareness can be applied to earning the Girl Scout Gold Award. For that honor, a girl must design, implement, and take the lead on a project of her choice to make a difference in her community. Usually, the project takes over 80 hours of service. Also, the project must be self-sustaining for at least two years after the girl finishes.
Pattison, the 2022 Murray High School salutatorian, is currently a math with pre-health major at Pepperdine University. She hopes to pursue a career as an anesthesiologist.