Concussions And Brain Injury Risk In Youth Sports

Brain injuries are nothing to fool around with. They can occur as a result of an auto accident, a slip and fall, or even when using a defective product. Unfortunately, brain injuries are also common in youth sports programs.

Concussions: A Common Type Of Brain Injury

A concussion is the most common type of brain injury that occurs in youth sports. It is usually caused by a hit to the head, but violent shaking of the head or upper body can also cause a concussion. Common symptoms that can occur right after a concussive event include:

• Head pain or pressure
• Confusion
• Loss of consciousness
• Dizziness
• Ringing in the ears
• Nausea or vomiting
• Slurred speech
• Fatigue

Statistics show that up to 40 percent of high school athletes will return to the field, court, or mat after an injury during a practice session or a game. This is often due to a pressure they feel to get back in the game to help their team compete for a win. With concussions, however, student-athletes can sometimes fail to realize the seriousness of the injury. Some symptoms can be delayed for hours, or even day, and include:

• Concentration and memory problems
• Irritability and personality changes
• Sensitivity to light and sound
• Insomnia
• Depression
• Reduction in senses of taste and smell

This is why it’s so important for adults to understand that any blow to the head during a sporting practice or game should be taken seriously and monitored. Getting medical treatment is essential to aid in appropriate recovery.

As The Laws Evolve

Responsibility lies upon the adults who, as coaches and trainers, have a duty to protect student-athletes from serious harm. As of 2015, protective laws regarding student concussions were created in every state, though many provided immunity to the coaches, officials, and volunteers who failed to remove a player and allow them to participate after an injury.

But in 2017, these laws began to evolve, holding more coaches and schools responsible after student football player Drew Swank died in 2009. Swank had been diagnosed with a concussion after a violent hit in a football game, but his symptoms cleared enough for him to play in the next week’s game.

Near the end of the second quarter, Swank vomited and collapsed. His parents allege that the team’s volunteer coach had berated Swank during the game, even pulling on his facemask. He died two days later.

Florida Laws Work Toward Prevention

In recent years, Florida legislation has taken steps to help prevent brain injuries and concussions in youth and school sports. Lawmakers understand that concussions are serious injuries that should be treated appropriately.

The appropriate bylaws and policies must be followed when any youth is suspected of a having a concussion or other type of head injury in practice or a game. Athletes must be removed immediately and not allowed to return without written medical clearance. Only then will the tragedies that can come from this type of brain injury be reduced.

Most student-athletes can recover from concussions with no lasting symptoms. Others may deal with long-term consequences and complications that someone should be held responsible for. And hopefully, as laws change for the better, many will be.


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