Football is more than a game for Matthew Bennett – it’s about family and brotherhood. The high school center played flag football at 4 years old, transitioning to tackle by first grade. And he’s never looked back.

“Literally, Matthew’s first word was ‘ball,’” said his mom Heather Bennett. “And so I always joke, I kind of feel like he came out playing football. He’s just always loved the sport.”

When Matthew sustained a concussion during summer football camp, Arkansas Children’s Hospital provided the care he needed to get back on the field.

“There were two hits, and I don’t know exactly which one it was. I kind of felt a little rocked, like I got my bell rung, but I just thought I was fine and I kept going. But I really started to feel the symptoms that afternoon,” Matthew said. While helping his family move, he dropped a box after almost falling from dizziness. School tests confirmed a concussion.

Dr. Michael Israel, M.D., ACH sports medicine, treated Matthew, explaining concussions are common, with almost four million occurring annually in the United States. Half occur in adolescents or children.

“The most common symptoms we see – headaches, dizziness, sometimes we’ve seen balance issues, but there’s also a wide variety of nausea, vomiting. One of the toughest questions you always face is when is it safe for a child to go back to activity,” Israel said. “Our biggest concern is to always make sure the patient’s back to their baseline neurocognitive status prior to return. And every situation is different. So that’s why it’s important to evaluate fully in clinic.”

Heather Bennett said Matthew plays football to be a leader and help others, and his health is vital to pursue a career in this business long-term.

“This is not an immediate decision. This is a 40-year decision. How does this affect you all throughout life,” she said.

ACH, his coach and family, prioritized Matthew’s health, allowing him to play early in the season.

“Until about two or three weeks before the season started, I was like 95 percent sure I wasn’t going to play. It kept me up at night honestly because I love the game of football. I have limited reps in practice. I still play fully, but I’m the first one that they sub out,” he said.

Utilizing ACH values of safety, teamwork, compassion and excellence, Matthew’s health was restored, getting him back in the game.

“Our experience at Arkansas Children’s Hospital has been very positive and reassuring,” Heather Bennett said. “Dr. Israel is the same way; he’s always fun as far as greeting Matthew and all of us in a warm way, and kind of trying to put you at ease right away because it’s scary. But then he can switch gears quickly and, you know, get down to the brass tacks.”


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