Kids are the reason there is so much buzz about concussions. The professional player understands the risk and is getting paid to take those risks, kids are not. The other more important reason is that a younger brain can be more adversely affected by an insult/concussion. Steve Jansen and Gus Garcia-Roberts wrote an extensive and comprehensive article titled: Concussions Take a Terrible Toll on America’s Young Athletes.
Across the country, people have awakened to the sometimes irreversible damage of concussions, especially in high-impact professional sports. With much of the attention focused on the National Football and National Hockey leagues, Village Voice Media conducted a nationwide investigation into the consequences of concussion on youth athletes.
The article finds that there are some inherent gaps in the former and current systems for concussion recognition and return to play. A lot of the confusion is from the messages from the pro sports/athletes;
This lack of awareness could be seen in training rooms of every sport, and high-profile athletes such as boxer Muhammad Ali and All-Pro safety Dave Duerson returned to action prematurely. Years later, they essentially lost their minds. Until a few years ago, the NFL’s medical committee on concussions was publishing studies that concluded players were not suffering long-term damage from head trauma suffered in athletic competition.
Jansen and Garcia-Roberts look into cases where very serious complications, even death have been the end result of “undiagnosed” concussions. For many years and even today there are athletes that shrug off all of the “headaches” and “confusion” as part of the game; doing this can have disastrous effects;
These types of injuries are exacerbated in young athletes because the human brain doesn’t metabolically or neurochemically mature until a person is in his or her early to mid 20s, according to David Hovda, professor and director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center. This includes the brain of Matt Blea, who nearly died on a California football field two years ago.
Lawsuits are coming and coming at a higher rate as kids are mismanaged by medical personnel and coaches, sometimes even parents. One such case that is highlighted in the article is of a player cleared based on ImPACT results and a poor clinical decision by the medical staff;
But the test has hit real-world snags. The first is its price: At packages costing roughly $600 per school for the first year, ImPACT is too expensive for some districts. And many of those that do buy the program cannot afford to pay a specialist to administer it. Instead, that duty tends to fall on coaches or trainers, who often are unqualified to conduct the test. As shown in a case in the New York City suburbs, the results can be tragic.
In 2008, Ryne Dougherty, a 16-year-old high school linebacker in Essex County, N.J., sat out three weeks following a concussion. But after taking an ImPACT test, he was cleared to play. During his first game back, he suffered a brain hemorrhage; he died within a week.
Dougherty’s ImPACT results were ominously low, the family has claimed in a lawsuit against the school district. Additionally, according to the test results, Dougherty reported feeling “foggy” but still was cleared to play.
I highly suggest you read the article and get a summary of where we are headed in the future, and get a sense of what the authors found during their investigation and education.