School sports are a great way for students to stay healthy while learning important team-building skills. However, some students are staying in the game not recognizing the risks of playing hurt — especially when they’ve had a concussion. Concussions for student athletes are a growing problem that demands immediate attention. Youth athletes are at greater risk of sports-related concussions than college or professional athletes because their developing brains are more susceptible to injury.
In the past four years, there were nearly 400,000 reported concussions in high school athletes. These young athletes are at the highest risk for long-term brain damage from concussions and often are not even aware that the injury has occurred. Recent research has shown that repeated blows to the head can do irreparable damage to the brain leading to early memory loss, dementia, erratic behavior, and depression. This trauma, which includes multiple concussions, triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue. These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last concussion. The results may include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, depression, dementia, and suicide.
Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy recently revealed that the lineman and captain of a college football team who committed suicide, suffered from a trauma-induced brain disease, known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Although there is no confirmation that CTE caused the suicide, the findings explained some of the unusual behavior the football player began to display prior to his death.
Lineman and a linebacker, positions that typically involve multiple hits to the head during every game and practice, are estimated at taking approximately 1,000 hits or more per season. The college student joins a growing list of active and retired football players, and other contact sport athletes, who have been diagnosed with CTE after their deaths. CTE has been found in 12 of 13 former professional football players, as well as in amateur football players, professional boxers, and hockey players.
Student athletes risk their lives and permanent brain damage if schools don’t protect them from the effects of blows to the head. Unfortunately, the pressure to play too often outweighs a student athlete’s safety concerns. Fortunately, there is a growing move to change this way of thinking. A U.S. House committee is drafting legislation to require high schools to develop plans for concussion safety and management and increase student and parent awareness of their dangers. The legislation, the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act would make sports safer for student athletes by asking school districts to implement a concussion safety and management plan. It’s up to parents and coaches to help recognize and make the decision to pull a student athlete off of the field, ice, court, or track if they think a student athlete might have a concussion. The Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act would make this decision easier by:
- · Provide student athletes with information about how to prevent and manage concussions by requiring school districts to develop and implement a standard, community-based plan for concussion safety and management, as well as conduct outreach to parents and students about concussion and the plan.
- · Inform and empower student athletes, parents and school personnel about concussions by requiring schools to post information about concussions in a way that is publicly visible within the school and on the school website.
- · Support students’ health and recovery by implementing “when in doubt, sit it out” policies that require a student suspected of sustaining a concussion during a school-sponsored athletic activity to be removed from participation, prohibited from returning to play that day and evaluated by a health care professional. Parents must also be notified.
- · Prevent prolonged recovery by making sure students recovering from concussions have the supports they need as they return to athletic and academic activities in school.
The plan that school districts develop must educate students, parents, and school personnel about concussion safety and how to support students recovering from concussions. Clearly changes are needed. Every concussion is brain damage.
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff while pursuing personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.