Head Injury Diagnosis Key to Protecting Ohio Youth Athletes

Anyone who follows professional sports has noticed the increasing awareness about concussions and how devastating their effects can be in both the long and short term. This has been particularly true in the National Football League because football is a sport in which concussions occur regularly, even after numerous precautions have been taken to reduce traumatic head injury at all levels of the sport, from youth football to professional. Many media reports have told of veteran players suffering from memory loss, depression and dementia - and on occasion, even committing suicide.

Football has been particularly cited in head injury incidents - 6 to 8 percent of high school football players sustain concussions every year, according to a recent article in the NWI Times. Sports such as lacrosse, soccer and basketball also have been linked to concussions. And if adult athletes have been shown to suffer such injuries from repeated concussions, imagine how they can affect children and teenagers in youth sports. That's why it's important for our readers in and around Columbus, Ohio, to be aware of Ohio's protocol regarding traumatic head injuries to young athletes and how the rules must be followed closely to ensure the quality of a young person's life.

Coaches Required to Remove Players With Concussion-Like Symptoms

For a few years now, the Ohio High School Sports Association (OHSSA) has required an athlete who "exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) [to] be immediately removed from the contest." The athlete cannot play again until he or she has received written authorization from a physician (either a medical doctor, an osteopath or a certified athletic trainer.)

Obviously, not all youth sports are covered by the OHSSA. State lawmakers recently dealt with that by requiring all youth sports organizations to fulfill the same criteria, according to a Dec. 9 article by the Associated Press. The article cited statistics from the Ohio Department of Health showing that between 2002 and 2010, emergency room visits for sports-related traumatic brain injuries for young athletes more than doubled.

Improving Education About Concussions and Other Traumatic Head Injuries

According to the AP article, the new law also mandates additional education for coaches in learning how to spot warning signs of concussions. Coaches and referees must complete an online concussion course every three years. Athletes' parents must also be provided information sheets about brain injuries and sign them before the youths can participate.

As the NWI article notes, it's also important to educate players on the dangers of head injuries, because athletes often do not self-report symptoms, not wanting to be removed from play.

Of course, there's also the concern of some coaches also not wanting to bench star players in important contests, particularly if they do not believe the injury is major. Part of the education process is ensuring that everyone involved understands that any injury to the brain must be considered extremely serious.

If an athlete returns to play before a brain injury has time to heal, the athlete is at danger for even greater brain trauma that can lead to very serious consequences. That's why it's crucial for youth athletes and their family members to understand their legal rights and the full responsibility of schools and youth sports organizations to ensure the health of all participants.