Concussions in youth and high school sports is a pressing issue that needs careful and thoughtful action taken in order to limit them in the future. There are an estimated 350,000 sport-related traumatic brain injuries, predominantly concussions, that occur annually in the United States for people ages 15-24. In recent years, there have been more studies on youth concussions and increased measures taken to prevent them. I believe there is significant emphasis on safety in sports because many positive steps have been taken to treat and prevent future concussions. However, it is important that research continues because concussions will continue to be an important issue in sports.
The first experience I had with concussion work was during my middle school football years. One of my teammate’s fathers worked closely with a research facility that studied youth concussions. As we took a written test, our brain activity, flow of electricity through the brain, and reaction times were measured by a brain imaging system. This was the first test of its kind, and it could be used to diagnose the severity of concussions. It also recommended treatments based on which areas of the brain were affected. With this new technology and the continued research on the best way to diagnose concussions, these types of tests will continue to evolve and become more efficient in helping athletes recover and return to their sports.
I play football, basketball, and baseball, and the concussion protocol at my high school is very intense. Before each season, each athlete is mandated to take a baseline test that measures his/her memory, reaction time, and concentration. Once an athlete sustains any type of hit to the head, or whiplash, it is immediately reported to the school’s training staff. They then put the athlete through a series of verbal tests to determine whether or not the athlete should take the baseline test again. The results of the second test is then compared to the baseline, which helps diagnose a concussion. I believe these measures taken by schools show appropriate caution before allowing athletes to compete in their sport again. At my high school, there is a very intense concussion protocol before athletes can participate fully in academics and athletics. After taking verbal tests from the trainers and completing the baseline test again, the trainer evaluates the seriousness of the concussion and decide the rehab timeline. It can be a short as a week, but often takes more than two weeks. It is a very safe process and the training staff follows it closely.
In order to curb future high school concussions, coaches have a big role. They must stress the importance of safety for both their players and their opponents. In football, at the beginning of each season, we watch a tackling video made by the Seattle Seahawks that teaches the correct and safest ways to tackle. For the first few days of summer camp, all we practiced was this tackling technique. Small things like this will help limit the number of future concussions in high school sports.
Concussions are a serious issue that affect athletes, their parents, coaches, and teammates. High schools need to continue following the strict concussion “return to play” policy and stress the importance of safety to the athletes. Concussions can be so detrimental to someone’s life, but can be prevented by playing sports in a smart and safe manner.