The Pennsylvania State Senate recently approved legislation that would require student athletes who show symptoms of a concussion to be removed from play until they are cleared by a medical professional. Additionally, coaches will be required to complete concussion certification courses and parents and guardians will have to read and sign documents that educate them on concussions and brain injuries. This makes Pennsylvania the 31st state to enact a law that is meant to protect young athletes from the devastating impact of untreated and multiple brain injuries.
This policy is in line with the American Medical Association’s recommendation that young athletes who may have a concussion should have written approval from a physician before they are allowed to play or practice again. The AMA decided to promote this policy, as well as efforts to educate athletes, parents, coaches, and trainers, after research on the frequency of effects of concussions on athletes showed that 40% of high school athletes who sustain concussions return to play too soon. Additionally, research shows that concussions make up nearly 10% of all high school athletic injuries. The Brain Injury Association of America (link) has been advocating for the implementation of these guidelines for sports for some time and has provided information packs to schools and coaches to bring the importance of responding urgently to suspected brain injury to avoid the consequences of long-term problems.
It’s always worth pointing out that even mild brain injuries can be more serious than they seem, so it’s absolutely critical for athletes to be completely evaluated and given a clean bill of health before jumping back into action. Though young athletes with ferocious team spirit may want to return to the game right away after an injury, the dangers of doing so are great, especially in high contact sports where the risk of sustaining additional injuries is high. If a player returns to play and suffers any additional brain injuries before the initial injury has had a chance to properly heal, the damage to the brain can significantly worsen…this takes “taking one for the team” to a whole different level. However, if there are strict guidelines that prevent a young athlete from returning to the field before being cleared by a medical professional, the number of devastating brain injuries seen among this group could decrease considerably.
If you’re curious about whether or not your state has a similar policy in place, you can check out a running list of states that have concussion laws here. Hopefully, as more and more states across to the country begin to enact this type of legislation, those that have yet to design and implement similar laws will follow suit.