Concussing Our Kids, One Hit At a Time

While pro sports finally fess up to the dangers of high-impact athletics, trainers, coaches, parents and lawmakers struggle to curb head injuries that are even more dangerous for kids.

"What we think is probably happening is that since these kids don't have any symptoms, nobody ever takes them out of the game or makes them sit. They probably keep racking up more and more hits and it tends to affect more and more of the brain."

Nauman and his colleagues are looking for funding so they can study soccer players, wrestlers and participants in activities that aren't usually thought of as dangerous. "Anecdotally, the cheerleaders at Purdue had almost as many concussions as the football players," Nauman says.


"No bill is better than a bad bill," says Florida state Senator Dennis Jones, a working chiropractor who, in May, helped to kill a state concussion law. "As chiropractors, we've been treating head injuries since 1931. The symptoms of a concussion are not that difficult to diagnose."

Natasha Helmick's athletic career effectively ended in the Lake Highlands Girls Classic League.
Mark Graham
Natasha Helmick's athletic career effectively ended in the Lake Highlands Girls Classic League.
Head injuries derailed Kayla Meyer's hockey career -- and her health.
Chuck Kajer
Head injuries derailed Kayla Meyer's hockey career -- and her health.

Florida is one of the only states to balk at concussion legislation for youth athletes, a nationwide trend that started in 2009 in Washington. A prototype for dozens to come, the act requires any athlete under 18 who suffers a suspected concussion to receive written consent from a medical professional before returning to play. (There is no similar federal law.)

In Texas, Natasha's Law, named after Natasha Helmick, was signed by Governor Rick Perry in June after the Senate passed the bill by a 31-0 margin. And, beginning on January 1, 2012, Colorado's Jake Snakenberg Act will require every coach in youth athletics to complete an online concussion recognition course.

Florida, however, recoiled from its own version of concussion safety because Jones was miffed that the language did not include chiropractors among "medical professionals."

As more and more states enact concussion laws, medical professionals, athletic trainers and school administrators are wondering if these laws are actually going to help prevent a condition that's inherently difficult to detect.

"I think the law comes up a little short," says Saint Louis University head athletic trainer Anthony Breitbach about Missouri's Interscholastic Youth Sports Brain Injury Prevention Act, "because a lot of these symptoms are subtle and can be easily concealed by the athlete if he or she wants to play." Additionally, Breitbach estimates that since only half of the state's schools can afford to employ an athletic trainer (which echoes a nationwide trend), a lot of concussions will continue to go undiagnosed, even with the new law in place.

In Arizona, on the strength of Governor Jan Brewer's signature on House Bill 1521, the Mayo Clinic is offering free, online-based concussion tests to more than 100,000 high school athletes. In June, the Mayo Clinic issued a press release stating that the Arizona Interscholastic Association had endorsed the baseline test, which was not true and caused an AIA attorney to threaten legal action. The two have since made up and are partnering to test all Arizona contact athletes during the 2011-2012 school year starting with football.

Steve Hogen, athletic director of Mesa Public Schools, had concerns with Arizona's law even before it passed. If he and his cohorts hadn't been vocal about the bill's language (which was consequently amended), he says, the law would have placed an impossible load on them.

"It put the burden on us that we had to make sure that all Pop Warner football kids were tested. That's impossible. We can't do that," Hogen says. "What if an out-of-state group had come in and they didn't have this concussion testing? We wouldn't have had the resources to check."

Because a legal precedent has yet to be established on these new laws, attorneys are divided on how potential lawsuits will play out in a courtroom. Steven Pachman is a Philadelphia-based lawyer who has advised numerous academic institutions and athletic entities about concussion litigation. He defended La Salle University in a lawsuit filed by the family of a former player, Preston Plevretes, who claimed that he'd received severe brain damage because the school's nurse and a team trainer inserted him back into play too soon following a concussion. (La Salle settled out of court for $7.5 million.)

Pachman explains that he receives a call each week from advice-seeking youth and high school sports organizations, and "what I'm hearing from the defense perspective — 'We don't have a plan' and 'An athletic trainer is too expensive' — frightens me," Pachman says.

"The youth sports might suffer the most because of their lack of resources. ... A town of 80 people, like the one from Hoosiers, may not even think about potential litigation until something tragic happens," Pachman says.


Before she became an old woman at age 14, Kayla Meyer had three passions. She rode horses on her family's farm. She was a huge reader. "Supernatural monsters kind of thing," explains the gregarious Minnesotan when asked what books she likes, "or old kind of sword-fighting stuff is basically what I read."

And, like seemingly every other man, woman and child in the iced-over town of New Prague, 45 miles south of Minneapolis, Kayla played hockey.

In early 2009, then age 13, she was skating in a club game when a collision took her legs out from under her and she fell, hitting the back of her head. Kayla told the coach she was fine and played the rest of the game.

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13 comments
Vitaldifferenceutah
Vitaldifferenceutah

Children being over prescribed with medication and still in chronic pain from sport injuries. I'm a Correctional Officer at the Utah prison system, whose son became addicted to drugs after an injury. He took everything from Oxycodone to Heroin. After searching the country for months for a program that did not us drug to get them off of drugs, I finally found it in Dallas.

The program eliminates the most severe cases of chronic pain with out the use of drugs.

Did you know that most drug addictions happen because of an injury? Did you know that more addicts are caused by prescription drug use first? Did you know that there are more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than from automobile accidents yearly?

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Terrycart
Terrycart

So, this article show us kids stop doing too much sports exercise. Is that right?

ron
ron

when you you stop this drivil enough is enough damn kids get hurt playing in the dirt soooo football is contact sports or we could say do the fluff dance but you might break a nail. so in my opinion shut the hell up already.

bb
bb

I don't understand why parents encourage their kids to play in contact sports where risk of concussions and other serious injuries is very high. With school budgets cut to the bone it seems, as usual, the college farm teams (high school sports) are rarely impacted. The cost of busing kids to sporting events, equipment, maintenance of sports facilities, coaching staffs etc. is money that could be spent educating students in preparation for going to college on academic merit, or entering the local workforce. A fraction of 1% of high school students playing sports actual go on to earn a living playing their sport(s). However, most if not all injured playing high school sports carry those injuries for the rest of their life.Yea, I know the arguments on childhood obesity and teaching discipline, but at what cost. Get back to basics of teaching PE (Physical Education) and calisthenics.The high-risk sports should be outsourced to leagues and associations outside the school system similar to the way sports are played in elementary school. (Pop Warner, Little League Baseball etc.)Junior high and high schools should get out of the farm team business.

Ronb77
Ronb77

leticia olalia morales of 15501 pasadena ave #8 tustin ca 92780 submitted fake documents and paid 5000 dollars to obtain a US tourist visa. she also submitted fake employment records to obtain a work visa. she is now applying for citizenship. her contact at the embassy was man named sandman.

Joe
Joe

my son plays football and I have him in a 300+ plus helmet. I get alot of crap because of it but guess what, those who put their kid in those sub 100 water coolers should not be allow to complain when then get their bell gets rung..or better yet..those should not be allowed out on the field. If you can pay to protect your kids head...get the f ck off the field...your child is more important.

CR
CR

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur each year. Out of this figure, about 235,000 are hospitalized and 50,000 die, according to the CDC."

What's sad is that after a certain age the majority of these young kids will grow out of these sports (as with alcohol and other drug abuse) but the damage can last a lifetime.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Do the Kids and Parents want to be stars and see stars ? Or not play at all ?

Their choice .

iblobar
iblobar

I think alot of these gung-ho coachs are to blame...mostly the football coachs. Refs have got to do a better job and throw out these agressive dogs that bite....

Roger
Roger

A freak accidental kick to the head derailed my daughters college volleyball career last season. She was not only out of sports, but out of school from last September until July when she went back for Summer 2 classes, she still has some ill affects from the concussion.

Mark Picot
Mark Picot

Concussions not only originate from head contact. Preliminary data supports the use of an orthotic oral appliance designed to prevent the boxers "Glass jaw". In cases of post orthodontics or where temporal mandibular joint dysfunction and concussion history exist, these corrective mouth guards offer more protection than common boil and bite or common custom made tooth protectors. Dr. Bill Burkhart, team dentist for the University of Texas is certified in the protocol to make these adaptive mouth guards.The U.S. Army is moving forward with a research initiative based on the date linked. www.mahercor.com

Study link peer reviewed by a Harvard MGH specialist

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu...

Tyler
Tyler

Play it safe is the App

 
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