Law aims to protect student athletes
With high school sports in full swing; parents, coaches and athletes are on the lookout for symptoms of serious head injuries.
They understand the lasting impact these injuries can have if athletes return to the game too soon after the injury.
Between 2005 and 2008, an estimated 400,000 high school athletes suffered concussions while participating in a sport.
The highest number of these occurred in football, followed by men’s and women’s soccer.
Given this high number, and an increased understanding of the long-lasting dangers of traumatic brain injuries, a bill was introduced last session aimed at improving awareness and understanding of the danger of concussions.
This bill became law this spring and is helping keep student athletes safe.
A concussion is a short-term loss of awareness or consciousness resulting from a blow to the head.
Severe blows can result in bleeding in the head or severe damage to nerves.
Immediate symptoms of concussions include: confusion, amnesia, headache, ringing in the ears, nausea and slurred speech, among others.
When student athletes return to the sport before they are fully healed from a concussion, they put themselves at risk for Second Impact Syndrome, a condition that occurs when a second concussion occurs before the person is fully healed from the first injury.
This syndrome can cause rapid and severe brain swelling that may lead to death.
What’s more, multiple concussions can make athletes more susceptible to future injuries by lowering their tolerance for such trauma.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, between 2001 and 2005, concussions represented 8.9 percent of all high school athletic injuries.
More than 400,000 children under the age of 15 visit the emergency room each year for traumatic brain injury.
Children between the ages of 5 and 18 represented 5.6 percent of all sports and recreation injuries and traumatic brain injuries accounted for 17.9 percent of all sports and recreation hospitalizations.
Under the law passed last spring, every athlete under age of 19 and their parents must be informed of, and agree to, the new policy regarding head injuries before the start of season for each sport the child plays.
The new rule is simple: any child under age 19 who suffers a head injury during a sporting event cannot resume play until a medical professional clears the child to play again.
The new law has the support of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the Medical College of Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the Brain Injury Association of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is one of 40 states with laws governing student athletes and head injuries.
Legislation is pending in an additional seven states.
Although there was a lot of support for the legislation, some coaches and athletic trainers have said that they believe the list of possible concussion systems is too vague and could end up applying to students who do not really have a concussion.
Some have also expressed frustration because they feel like the law implies that they do not know how to take care of their players.
I do not believe that was the intention of the law, rather, I believe there is a genuine concern for the lifelong health of young athletes.
Since recovery times for traumatic brain injuries, including concussions vary depending on the injury and the person, it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that children who suffer from concussions are fully healed before returning to the game.