Illinois government and school officials have taken a zero tolerance stance against sports-related head trauma just in time for football season.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new state bill last month, House Bill 200, effective immediately, that requires students who leave a game as a result of a head injury to be cleared by a doctor before returning to the playing field.
The National Federation of State High School Associations estimates that 140,000 students sustain sports-related concussions every year. While football players comprise the majority of this statistic, the new law applies to all student athletes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveal that sports are the second-leading cause of traumatic brain injury in young adults in the 15-to-24 age group. About 40 percent of these athletes return to the sport before making a full recovery, which puts them at greater risk for future concussions and long-term brain damage.
Northwestern University Medical School partnered with the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to host a symposium aimed at educating school officials about concussion. Doctors met with coaches, trainers and athletic directors to help them identify early warning signs and proper protocol for a concussed athlete.
During the symposium, some athletic directors expressed concern about the additional funding needed to employ enough trained professionals to oversee injured athletes. Others speculated that more coaches and referees would err on the side of caution and sideline a greater number of athletes.
The hope is that early identification and intervention will curb the incidence of long-term damage among high school kids. But what about the child who's played football since he was 5? He's undoubtedly sustained plenty of impact blows by the time he enters high school. Furthermore, children between the ages of 5 and 18 are more likely to get a concussion than adults. They also take longer to recover from the injury.
With that in mind, should very young children be encouraged to participate in sports that are potentially dangerous to their neurological development?