The Ohio Senate has passed a bill that would require student athletes to be immediately removed from games at the onset of concussion symptoms, a move seemingly welcomed by many of those involved in interscholastic sports. With heightened awareness for concussions at the professional and college-sport levels, it is nice to see lawmakers come together to do as much as they can to protect kids from concussions, too.
As a clinician who sometimes works with kids who have experienced head injuries and concussions, I welcome any law that helps better protect kids. One challenge I have experienced in recent years is trying to impress upon some families the serious nature of head trauma injuries — this is an especially tough “sell” for a number of reasons. First, head injuries are not easy to “see,” not like how you can witness an athlete limping off the field with a torn ACL. The thinking by some parents (and coaches) is if I can’t “see” the injury, it must not exist.
A second reason why some families struggle in dealing with concussions is that with this type of injury often comes the stark and unwanted reality that sport retirement may be looming on the horizon. In other words, the head injury may be a deciding factor whether the youngster can continue on in his sports career. On the surface, you might think this is an easy decision — how could a parent not consider sport retirement for their child if he or she is at risk for even greater problems in the future if he or she continues to play? While this might seem like a simple decision on the surface, many parents struggle making this call when they weigh out how much fun their kid has while playing sports, as well as the many other great things that come from sports participation (making friends, learning life lessons, etc.).
Assuming Ohio moves forward with more serious bylaws for kids who experience concussions, it should help in the decision-making process by taking some of the onus of responsibility away from parents and coaches who have struggled to make the best decisions around head injuries in the past. For me, I also appreciate having a little more leverage in this kind of discussion, as I have occasionally found myself scapegoated in the past by some parents who have felt my conservative position on concussions was ultra-conservative in their eyes. Again, when you can’t “see” the impact of an injury, it can provide a false security in the eyes of some parents that everything is OK, when really it’s not. In the future the dilemma around whether a kid should continue to play or not may be taken out of our hands and decided on by a state law – which may not be a bad thing in the case of sports concussions.
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