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Concussions, Brain Injuries On the Rise in Youth Athletes

Brandon Evans   |  January 4, 2018   |  

Brain injuries among youth athletes are a serious health concern in the United States. Each year, an estimated 173,000 children (19 years or younger) are affected by sports-related head injuries or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injuries) according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. In 2007, all 50 states and the District of Columbia enacted legislation to address youth athletic brain injuries.

The laws implemented share these three objectives:

  • Educate and train youth athletic professionals on concussion recognition and response
  • Remove youth athletes from practice or play in the event a suspected concussion has occurred
  • Return youth athletes to practice or play after a thorough evaluation has been performed and they are cleared by a healthcare professional. 

Although many brain injuries are considered “mild”, they can heavily impact youth brains and result in long-term impairments. These impairments can range from memory loss to emotional or behavioral changes. The most concerning issue is the next “heavy hit” to the brain. The next heavy hit can be devastating and even sometimes fatal.  This injury is called SIS or “Second Impact Syndrome”. According to BrainandSpinalCord.org, SIS occurs when an athlete sustains a second brain injury before the first is fully healed. This leads to severe swelling of the brain and possible brain herniation, often causing loss of consciousness and eventually substantial brain damage. Deciding to remove an athlete from the game after a suspected head injury is crucial and can limit the risk of SIS. Ultimately, it allows for athletes to recover quickly with hopes of a full recovery and ability to return to sports.

What are some steps you can take to limit TBI?

Lowering the overall risk of TBI in youth athletics requires cooperation from many different parties. School administrators, athletic directors/coaches, parents and even the athletes themselves are all responsible for ensuring head injuries are addressed promptly and appropriately. With each state setting laws to regulate this concern, most would think that the risk would decrease. Unfortunately, behaviors and attitudes are amongst the hardest to change. Most athletes are so concerned with finishing the game or “winning it” for their team that they fail to acknowledge their own injuries and seek medical attention. In addition, some school officials are encouraging team members to continue the game without requiring athletes to sit out for medical assistance. These behaviors all lead to multiple injuries and eventually long-term effects. In order to limit the risk of TBI, each party must do their part.

As a school official, acknowledge any injuries that occur on the team, especially those considered TBI. Immediately remove the injured athlete from practice or play and seek medical attention from a trained professional or healthcare provider. Ensure that before reentering practice or play that they have received a complete examination of their injuries and are cleared to return.

As a parent, educate your child on the proper behaviors for staying safe while playing and what to do when injuries do occur. You are a major influence on their decision making and ensuring they make the right decisions after an injury will prevent long-term medical issues.

As a youth athlete, you must put your health first. Regardless of how close you are to making that winning touchdown or carrying your team to the championship game, staying safe if most important. If an injury occurs, immediately seek the attention of medical or athletic personnel. Ensure that you are being evaluated by a trained professional or health care provider as quickly as possible. Do not return to the game immediately after a head injury. This can lead to more injuries due to impaired judgment. Wait until you receive written consent to return to playing. At the end of the day, make sure your health is a top priority.

Can I sue if I feel the law is not being followed by sports officials?

As a result of legislation implementing sports-related injury laws, school districts and private sports leagues must adhere to uniform standards when injuries occur. If they fail to do so, they can and should be held legally responsible.

If you feel that you are a victim of an injury due to school officials failing to follow these laws, the personal injury attorneys at Riddle and Brantley may be able to help. Contact us online or by phone at (800) 525-7111 today. Our representatives are available 24/7 to answer your questions and ensure that you are protected following an injury.