RJ Editorial: Concussion concerns

Young athletes are particularly vulnerable to brain trauma that results from concussions. Thus, Meriden State Sen. Danté Bartolomeo and fellow politicians are right to pursue new laws regarding this form of injury. The legislation would bring Connecticut up to date with effective safety programs employed by other states and national organizations.

Professional sports leagues have finally begun to pay proper attention to the danger of repeated hits to the head. A number of retired National Football League players have experienced significant mental health issues since leaving the sport. Suffering from debilitating brain trauma, some NFL retirees have committed suicide, including former New England Patriot Junior Seau. Facing a lawsuit for alleged negligence, NFL officials have, at last, improved the league’s concussion policies with stricter safety protocols.

In the case of concussions, what’s bad for adults in sports is even worse for young athletes. Brain fibers can tear apart more easily from blows to the head, especially for children under the age of 14. In 2010, Connecticut was among the first states to enact legislation related to the injury among children and teens. The law required anyone permitted to coach intramural or interscholastic sports to undergo periodic training on recognizing and treating concussions. The law also mandated that students sidelined for suspicion of head trauma receive medical clearance before returning to play.

These beneficial guidelines enhanced sports safety. However, since 2010, other states have established medical education initiatives that Bartolomeo and other politicians are correct to propose for Connecticut. They would require the State Board of Education to develop a concussion education program plan. Also, the bill would hold operators of youth athletic activities responsible for providing information about concussions to participants and their parents.

Another proposed change would restrict time spent in practice for contact sports to 90 minutes weekly. While shortening the length of practice would presumably decrease concussions, lawmakers should first confer with coaches about whether 90 minutes per week is adequate preparation for competition. Moreover, the supervised structure of practice should allow for safer exercises, compared to the sometimes violent and chaotic nature of games. Perhaps limiting training time is a step too far.

But increasing information about concussions should be a constructive course of action. As Bartolomeo stated in a Feb. 28 AP news story, while sports are part of the fabric of Connecticut culture, parents must be aware of what hazards their children face. With thorough knowledge of the dangers and warning signs, adults are better prepared to react appropriately when young athletes face the possibility of concussion, rather than risk the serious consequences when brain trauma is treated insufficiently.



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