OHSU

Jenna's story

Jenna's Law bill signing

In April 2009, "Max's Law" (OAR 581-022-0421) was passed, requiring Oregon school districts to implement new concussion management guidelines for student athletes. However, those playing in sports outside of school—such as club sports—were not required to follow any specific concussion guidelines.

After suffering numerous headaches and other medical issues, Jenna, a championship skier, came to OHSU to see James Chesnutt, M.D. at the OHSU Concussion Program. Dr. Chesnutt is also a co-director of Oregon Concussion Awareness and Management Program (OCAMP), a consortium of professionals dedicated to helping Oregon schools effectively manage youth sports concussion.

Motivated by Jenna's story, Dr. Chesnutt, along with other medical and legal professionals including lawyer David Kracke and Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, M.D., realized that in order to create a consistent pattern of concussion awareness and management, the law would need to be expanded to club sports.

OHSU and Dr. Chesnutt were instrumental in getting Oregon Senate Bill 721, also known as "Jenna's Law," signed by Governor John Kitzhaber in September, 2013. Jenna's Law helps protect young people in non-school athletic programs by imposing requirements for recognizing and responding to possible concussions.

Jenna tells her story below.

JENNA'S STORY

About four years ago, I started having severe migraines. I went to doctor after doctor to find out why they kept happening, but got no answers. As a national gold medalist skier, I had a history of concussions, but when I asked the doctors if there was any connection between previous concussions and my current headaches, they said no.

By autumn of 2010, things were worse; I was slurring words and starting to fail out of school. We had a family friend who recommended OHSU, where I got a referral to Dr. Chesnutt.

I figured he'd just be another doctor who didn't get it. But then I started telling him about my symptoms, and he asked me about all the concussions I've had over the years. I realized there had been 11 of them. After more tests, Dr. Chesnutt diagnosed me with post-concussion syndrome.

I worked with occupational, speech, and physical therapists; neuropsychologists and eye doctors who specialized in sports injuries. I wore special prism glasses to help my eyes and brain work together; they're like what Hillary Clinton had to wear. I still have headaches, but trying to treat headaches from a concussion is like sticking your hand in a candy jar and seeing what you get: You have to try different things to see what works. Everyone at OHSU was just phenomenal. I couldn't have had a better team of therapists and doctors.

But after being diagnosed, that was it for skiing. I couldn't risk another concussion.

Obviously, I took it really hard. Not only that, but Dr. Chesnutt dictated my choice of classes: I could take one class a term that wasn't science, math or required lots of memorization.It was a lot to have to accept. I was depressed for a while.

Talking with Dr. Chesnutt helped; he understood what I was going through. He's straightforward and caring. By looking for things that were related, he saved my life.

I slowly added classes and now have a 3.4 overall GPA, a 3.7 GPA in my major and As in all my science classes. This spring I will graduate Oregon State with a Psychology major and Leadership minor.I've picked up golfing and scuba, which I really enjoy.

Helping testify to support Oregon Senate Bill 721 has been amazing. The bill requires sports leagues to educate parents, referees, coaches and kids over 12 to recognize concussion symptoms. When I learned they were thinking of calling it Jenna's Law, I was amazed and humbled. It was so cool and intense to meet everyone supporting the bill: Like a crash course in politics.

I feel great about this bill being passed. It means someone will be looking out for you and taking head injuries seriously. Coaches can feel empowered by the bill, because they can say "No" to parents and kids when kids are injured. The bill saves the child from further injury later in life.

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