Bernard Bolden, who recently suffered a concussion, clearly remembers the incident and how painful it was.
Bolden, who plays defensive back for the Merced College Blue Devils football team, recalls that he was preparing to tackle a bigger player, but instead he hit the other player with his helmet. "My head was hurting, my whole face was hurting," the 19-year-old said. "Every time I would blink, it would hurt more. It was pretty painful."
Anybody can suffer a concussion, but athletes are more vulnerable.
Rep. Goerge Miller, D-Martinez, chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, has introduced lesiglation, The Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act, that would establish mimimum standards that school districts would have to follow on concussions safety and how to address such incidents.
The bill also would create more awareness among students, parents and school officials.
Dr. Salvador Sandoval, a family practitioner with Golden Valley Medical Centers, said concussions can happen as a result of vehicle accidents and from playing sports, especially football. He said concussions are an injury to the brain, and they vary in severity. They range from causing a person to feel dazed and momentarily disoriented to actually losing consciousness. There are cases when a person isn't able to recall anything that happened before the concussion.
A concussion can be identified by asking the injured person basic questions, such as his name, age and also by observing him. Sandoval said in some cases the person isn't able to stand up and slurs his speech.
Sandoval said most concussions are treated at emergency rooms.
John O'Brien, athletic trainer at Merced College, said concussions are common at the college during every sports season. "There's really no sport that is really immune," he said.
O'Brien said college officials take concussions seriously because of their potential dangers and long-term impact on health since they affect the brain.
"Your brain and your heart are the two things you can't live without," he said. "And your brain is your No. 1, so it's extremely important" to take proper precautions.
Sandoval said the kinds of concussions football players experience are usually mild to moderate. The dangers are even higher for high school athletes, mainly because their brain isn't fully developed, O'Brien said. "There is more room for the brain to move around," he explained. "They get the rebound effect -- the brain bounces off the back and comes forward."
Merced College officials follow certain procedures after an athlete suffers a head injury. He's taken out of a game or practice, and after three days he's given a walking and aerobic test that is monitored. O'Brien said the test is stopped immediately if the athlete begins to feel nauseous, but if he passes, he's able to return to his usual athletic routine.
O'Brien said if the concussion is more severe, the athlete is tested seven days after the incident. He noted that there have been times where athletes have difficulty concentrating and learning for a few weeks after suffering a concussion.
That was the case with Bolden.
"In class it was hard to pay attention," he recalled. "I was very tired."
Sandoval said serious concussions -- where there's bleeding in the brain -- can cause permanent damage.
O'Brien said most of the concussions that happen at Merced College aren't severe. But he said all concussions should be treated properly, even if they're minor. "That's definitely something that needs to be recognized and be dealt with," he said.
He said college officials don't let any athletes back onto the field after suffering any kind of concussion, even if the athletes insist that they are fine. Athletes don't have a choice. "We don't really listen to what the athletes have to say," he said.
Bolden said he didn't do much for about two weeks while he recovered, but after that he was back to normal.
O'Brien said there's no way to prevent concussions, but good coaching techniques are important factors to help minimize the risk.
Sandoval said there are ways to help prevent concussions -- wearing a seat belt while in a vehicle and proper gear while playing sports.
Bolden had some advice for other athletes:
"Keep your head up when you are going to hit," he said. "They teach us these things for a reason."
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or firstname.lastname@example.org