Concussions more prevalent in volleyball

  • St. Francis girls volleyball standout Maddie Haggerty watches her team play from the bench.

    St. Francis girls volleyball standout Maddie Haggerty watches her team play from the bench. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Updated 10/15/2012 9:27 PM

When people hear the word concussion, football is the first sport to come to mind. With good reason, given the high-contact nature of the game.

Volleyball, though, isn't immune.


Area teams are finding that out this fall. St. Francis star outside Maddie Haggerty is the latest player to miss time due to a concussion.

Naperville Central middle Sammy Condon and Batavia right-side Anysa Ocon also went down with concussions last month.

In practice a little over a week ago Haggerty banged her head on the court diving for a ball. She hasn't played or practiced since, instead being sent home after school to rest. St. Francis coach Peg Kopec said Haggerty's been headache-free for three days and could get in a match this week. She first must be cleared by the school trainer.

Kopec couldn't remember a St. Francis player prior to Haggerty getting a concussion, but that could be because awareness has heightened in recent years.

"It's a big deal now, and rightfully so," Kopec said. "The brain needs time to heal. There is nothing more important than a girl's health."

Studies have found that high school girls athletes proportionately suffer more concussions than boys, soccer players the most susceptible. In the case of volleyball, girls don't wear helmets and could hit their head on a wood floor. In some instances volleyballs are coming at them at 50 mph.

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Ex-Benet outside Lara Ontko had her collegiate career at Ole Miss cut short because of multiple concussions. Brianne Riley, another former Benet player, missed a good portion of her freshman year at Kansas because of a concussion.

Last year Naperville Central volleyball players Emilie Bischoff and Carly Wesolowski collided in practice and both missed a week with a concussion. Condon this year got spun around on a pursuit drill, fell and hit the back side of her head on the court. She immediately left practice, took the concussion test and did not pass.

Unlike a sport like football, Redhawks volleyball players do not take a baseline test before the season to compare with post-injury results.

If there are more reported cases of volleyball concussions now, Redhawks coach Brie Isaacson feels the reason could be two-fold; there is more awareness, but the game has also speeded up over the years.

"Volleyball at the highest level is more competitive than it's ever been," Isaacson said. "It definitely seems like there's more awareness and spotlight on concussions and more precaution than even five years ago."


Redhawks going for DVC share:

No extra motivation needed when Naperville Central and Naperville North get together, but the Redhawks have it Tuesday night.

Naperville Central (26-7, 11-1 DuPage Valley Conference), tied with West Aurora atop the DVC, can all but clinch a share of its first conference title since 2008 with a win at Naperville North (20-8, 9-3). The Redhawks, who have already beaten the Huskies twice this season, wrap up DVC play Thursday against West Chicago.

"It's a huge match," Isaacson said, "and the kids know it. I would much rather be in the position we are where we can go and play for a conference championship rather than needing somebody to lose so we can get a share of it."

Naperville Central comes in off a taxing weekend.

On Saturday at Autumnfest the Redhawks blew a 23-18 third-set lead in a loss to West Aurora but responded from that adversity to beat Prairie Ridge in three sets and then Glenbard West. Isaacson thinks it could provide an emotional boost.

"What happened on Saturday could be a turning point for us," Isaacson said. "Hopefully, the kids felt like I felt after that West Aurora match and want to never feel that way again. It was a long day, but I feel every bit as prepared for this Naperville North match as I ever have."

Showdown for Metro Suburban:

The Metro Suburban Conference crown will likely be on the line Thursday in Glen Ellyn.

Timothy Christian (22-7, 10-1), last year's conference champion, meets Glenbard South (19-9, 8-2), the 2010 champ. The Trojans beat the Raiders in three sets three weeks ago in Elmhurst. A big reason was 14 kills from sophomore middle Kacie Stoll, a definite focus of Glenbard South and coach Chad Grant.

"We have to try to make other people step up," Grant said. "They won the passing and serving battle the first match. We have to serve better. We have to be able to limit their ability to set Stoll. The goal is to change as much as possible from the first match."

Ashley Marie Smith Memorial match:

The second annual Ashley Marie Smith memorial volleyball match will be played this Thursday at Lake Park's West Campus in Roselle. The match salutes the late Ashley Smith, a member of St. Charles East's 2001 Class 2A championship team those mother, Barb, taught for years at Lake Park.

Funds raised during the game and by drawings for an iPod shuffle and a variety of gift certificates will go to The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Due partly to proceeds from last year's memorial match, $10,000 was raised for that cause.

Marine biology was the focus of Ashley Smith, who died of a bacterial infection at age 26 on June 16, 2010, in Australia. Specifically, her focus was coral disease, which Smith went out to pursue after first completing her bachelor's degree -- and her collegiate volleyball career -- at North Carolina-Wilmington in 2006 and earning a master's at the University of Hawaii.

In addition to contributing at the St. Charles East-Lake Park match on Thursday, donations may be sent to the Ashley Marie Smith Memorial Fund, 39 W. Madison St., Villa Park, Ill., 60181.

Up and down in Darien:

Has any team been through the roller-coaster ride of a season that Hinsdale South has?


The Hornets (21-7) started the season on a high, winning at Class 4A favorite Marist in their season opener. They played well in taking third at the Wheaton Classic. But then there was the two-set loss to York. And the low-point had to have been an 0-3 Saturday at the Mizuno Cup.

Testament to the Jekyll and Hyde season in Darien, two days after a three-set loss to Bloomington at Mizuno the Hornets blew out Bloomington in two in a Columbus Day trip to Normal.

"Our biggest opponent is ourselves," Hinsdale South coach Lisa Martinez said. "Same thing happened against Normal. We lose the first set and lollygag. Then we play like rock stars and win in three."

In fairness injuries have hindered the Hornets. Jackie Adelphia twice was sidelined because of injury and Renee Bialas also missed time. Pin hitter Colleen Lyons has played half the season at middle. The team is finally healthy now, and finally practicing as a unit.

"As experienced as this group is they are very inexperienced playing together with the same set lineup," Martinez said. "I think a lot of it is getting into the flow of things."

For all the ups and downs, Hinsdale South still earned a No. 1 sectional seed. Martinez's girls are intent on erasing the memory of last year's regional final loss.

"I'm hoping the sting from last year is still around," Martinez said. "Right now it's about polishing up and solidifying things to where everybody is super comfortable."

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