January 1, 2011

Oregon was one of the first states to pass a concussion awareness law. The law, sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of Oregon, mandates concussion recognition training for school coaches and sets out guidelines for “benching” athletes suspected of having a concussion. Last week, the National Football League continued the push begun at the Superbowl to have all states pass similar laws.

As of September 2010, nine states have concussion laws, and more proposals are expected as the legislative season unfolds. The key objective is to train coaches and trainers to recognize the symptoms of a concussion and, if concussion is suspected, to keep the player out of the game. Not every bump on the head results in a brain injury, but repeated injuries can result in serious disabilities.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 135,000 children between 5 and 18 are treated each year for sports- or recreation-related concussion or other head trauma. While the symptoms (nausea, dizziness, headache and trouble concentrating) may last a week, recovery can take months. The effects of repeated concussions can take years to surface.

The CDC warns that young athletes are particularly susceptible to lasting brain damage, because their brains are still developing. So, while the NFL has ramped up its efforts to deal with concussions and brain injuries among its players, the organization is urging states to protect young athletes by requiring the training and adopting the guidelines.

They are guidelines, though, and a coach cannot be penalized for not following them. Oregon’s law mandates the adoption of rules and procedures, but there are no consequences to the school or the coach for not adopting them. Rather, the laws call on the better angels in everyone who has influence or control over young athletes: Protect your players; if you don’t, the cost to them and to all of us is high.

Source: National Public Radio “NFL Backs State Regulations for Youth Concussions” 01/16/11


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