Feds may set care standards for concussions to protect high school athletes

There’s been a spate of reports in the last few years on the lasting repercussions to high school athletes from head injuries. Now, U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and the House Education and Labor committee are considering setting minimum guidelines for how school districts handle students recovering from concussions.

While the assumption is that football poses the greatest dangers to teens, there are risks to other high school athletes. According to Miller’s office, concussion rates in girls’ soccer ranks second only to football. In basketball, girls appear to sustain concussions at three times the rate of male basketball players. And almost 90 percent of girls recovering from a concussion reported that their symptoms worsened after trying to focus on schoolwork.

“The NFL, college teams – they’ve been paying attention to concussions,” said Miller, in a statement. “But when it comes to high school athletes, concussions are vastly underreported. High school is a critical time for students academically, and when a concussion interferes with concentration and focus, schoolwork is a challenge. We cannot let honor roll students become D and F students because their injuries were not addressed properly.”

According to Thursday’s Washington Post:

“Concussions have always been a part of the conversation about student athletes,” said Miller, chairman of the committee and co-sponsor of the bill. “But for far too long, we’ve talked about what has happened without taking any action to help students manage these dangerous injuries.”

Gerard Gioia, chief of pediatric neuropsychology at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, testified that a recent survey of 140 school nurses across the D.C. area found that nearly half weren’t prepared to properly assess a concussion and even fewer were able to offer academic support after the injury.

“We can clearly see that schools are very much caring and want to help students with these injuries,” Gioia said. “But they are often not adequately prepared to help them. They lack the necessary policies, procedures, knowledge, skill and tools to properly support the return of the concussed student athlete.”

The minimum guidelines proposed Thursday include displaying an informational poster on concussions for students, keeping student-athletes who are suspected of suffering from concussions out of games and practices, notifying their parents and sending them to an evaluation by a health-care professional. It also includes drafting a plan, shared with the school, that helps students suffering from concussions ease back into the classroom and offering specialized help if they are not recovering.

Alison Conca-Cheng, a 17-year old senior at Centennial High who suffered a concussion in August when she collided headfirst with a soccer teammate, detailed how her school sent her to a family doctor and then gave her a computerized test that tested simple cognitive functions.

After her results were lower than her pre-concussions results and she continued struggling with class work, she was seen by Gioia. He made a plan of how to deal with the concussions that was shared with Conca-Cheng’s teachers and counselors.

“The school and my teachers have been extremely understanding and accommodating,” she said. “Whenever I need to ‘cool off’ my brain, I can go to the nurse’s office and I have gotten extensions on reading assignments. These adjustments have helped. But with the added time it takes to do my homework and the mandated breaks, schoolwork now dominates my evenings and weekends.”

Stanley Herring, head of the NFL’s Neck and Spine Committee and team physician for the Seattle Seahawks, said the NFL and others are working to change the “warrior mentality” that predominates in football, where concussions are more likely to occur than other sports. Laws meant to raise awareness, such as the one considered Thursday, help, he said.

“When you make this the national standard. . . . it makes it easier for us to push this agenda forward,” Herring said

19 comments Add your comment

Roy Barnes Lipstick

September 24th, 2010
7:29 am

Students certainly are frail these days and we will need the addition of a new Dept of Govt for Concussion Rehabilitation Enforcement.

bootney farnsworth

September 24th, 2010
7:32 am

as much as I hate to say it, this is an area where the fed probably ought step in.

back long ago in HS, I was a football player. I finally ended up quitting football due to the effects of multiple concussions – a couple of which left me hospitalized. after the next to last one I literally went from hospital bed to practice field – and within days suffered another one. that was when I decided to hand in my pads – just couldn’t go anymore. spirit was willing, body was not.

at last count, I recieved 8 known concussions (3 others suspected) during my football tenure. while I don’t blame anyone but myself – and maybe a bit my parents – the simple fact is I should have never been allowed on the field after midway thru my Sophomore season. there’s a full week of my life I can’t account for – its just gone. my last clear memory is focusing on the ball coming my way – then poof. gone.

lets be clear. nobody knew the dangers then like we do now. and I had parental and physician clearance to be back on the field. and I wanted to play – God how I wanted to play. nobody forced me into those pads.
and my only regret is I wish I could have finished playing HS ball.
coaches, parents, and physicians from my time are not to blame – we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

but reality is this: no kid who loves the game will ever- and I mean ever take themselves out without major compelling reason. and in football massive headaches, bruses, sprains, even broken bones and high fever are not sufficent reasons not to try to play. I took the field in all those conditions.

basic facts:
most kids who play a sport come from a quasi warrior mentality and are used to pushing their bodies far beyond what most call normal. superior athletes are made, not born. these kind of people will never take themselves out unless they just can’t go.

most coaches come from the same background. they understand, respect, and EXPECT that attitude.

and since most coaches are getting paid to win, they’re under enormous pressure to field the best athletes they’ve got. or next year a new coach will put those kids on the field.

while there are some coaches who just don’t give a damn, most are surrounded by a fog of real life which obscures their view of reality.
they’d hold a kid out if they knew, but no one is gonna talk.

there is a brotherhood of athletes who play together. nothing makes a group of kids race and class blind faster than suiting up and doing two a days in a hot Georgia summer. but its a closed faternity – injured players are not allowed.

I’d rather not see the feds involved. we ought be able to police ourselves, but real life expereince has taught me we won’t. the pressure and desire to strap on the pads is just too strong.

establishing some basic quidelines seems just common sense under these curcumstances

FYI: college and pros? these guys are adults. that’s on them and them alone. wanna risk your life, health, and mental functions? knock yourself out.

literally

teacher&mom

September 24th, 2010
8:50 am

Wow Booney….well said. My son is one of the give-it-your-all football players. The boy thrives on tackling. I try to watch out for the concussions and I have no doubt that he has suffered from a few minor concussions. In fact, I suspect he had one last Friday night. The problem is he won’t tell me until after the fact….sometimes a week or two later. He knows his dad and I or his coach would pull him from practice. To try and offset potential concussions, we purchased a better helmet for him. It cost around $250 but it wasn’t worth taking a chance with the standard issue helmets.

Lee

September 24th, 2010
9:21 am

The truism about today’s players being bigger, stronger, faster also plays a role, IMHO. It’s not unusual to see 260-270 pound linemen, 230 pound linebackers, and 200+ pound running backs / defensive backs on high school football teams nowadays. You hear of players bench pressing 350 pounds and more.

Numbers that were unheard of 35 years ago when I played ball.

That said, the one sport that scares me to death is competition cheerleading. I cringe everytime I see a girl get thrown in the air over a hard gym floor.

V for Vendetta

September 24th, 2010
9:31 am

I completely agree with Bootney.

As a rabid individualist, I normally would loudly protest the government’s involvement in yet another aspect of our lives.

HOWEVER,

It is my belief that one of the government’s few jobs is to protect the people’s individual rights. I think this is a logical step–though I hope it doesn’t grow into a monster that starts affecting students abilities to play sports at all. As a high school athlete, D1 college athlete, and high school coach, I know how serious injuries can be for young people. Fortunately, I have not had to experience, personally or professionally, a catastrophic injury–but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen. Bootney is dead on in his assertion that this is one of the few areas in which the government is right to step in to protect the people. It is the same reason I agree with the police and fire departments and organizations such as the FAA, FDA, and NHSTA.

But I could care less about obesity. :-)

V for Vendetta

September 24th, 2010
9:33 am

Lee,

Another salient point. And I agree about the cheerleaders. Many of them have stopped stunting on hard surfaces, but it is still dangerous. Those girls are as brave as the running back staring down a 250lb linebacker. You won’t see me flying through the air over hardwoods! No sir.

Stevie Bee Goode

September 24th, 2010
10:01 am

Bootney: You and Catlady have done it all! Concussions are very serious indeed, and these days the players are much faster and stronger. The force of the collisions are somewhat daunting. I always pray that the good Lord protects my oldest son who prefers football over the other sports.

Dingy

September 24th, 2010
11:40 am

@teacher&mom – I think your comment is spot-on. It struck me that GIRLS’ soccer and basketball had the #2 and #3 highest reported concussions. It would seem that the boys (as they are typically bigger physically) would have high rates in those sports too. But, the “warrior mentality” kicks in and they don’t “report” the concussions. I think the idea of putting the extra resources toward athletes who have the concussions is fabulous. However, you have to have a mentality and culture shift to get those that need it the most to take advantage.

It’s been discussed several times on here how to shift the “culture” and expectations of underperforming schools and how difficult it is. I would suggest the shift for athletes (especially boys) to actually report concussions would be similarly difficult.

Sharon McEachern

September 24th, 2010
12:35 pm

Please don’t forget the young women — While Congress looks into safety issues for football players, how about a little scrutiny for the intensifying risks for cheerleaders. One single sport over the past 25 years has been responsible for more than two-thirds of all catastrophic sports injuries to high school and college female athletes in the U.S. — cheerleading. That’s according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research,, which provides information on a danger that has largely gone unrecognized by many school districts, cheerleading coaches, parents and athletes. Check out the following safety rules and injury prevention guidelines:

http://www.ethicsoup.com/guidelines-to-help-prevent-cheerleading-injuries.html

AND

http://www.ethicsoup.com/high-school-cheerleading-safety-rules.html

Ray

September 24th, 2010
12:35 pm

This would be a blow to the GOP’s war on kids, education, etc. etc….

Besides, it’s well known in the South that concern for our youth, our future, is straight up socialism.

Eddie Longs Underwear

September 24th, 2010
12:50 pm

I call it like I see it...

September 24th, 2010
2:21 pm

When you know better, you do better. We now know that concussions have a lasting impact on a person’s health. Did you see the recent “Real Sports” interview that linked concussions to ALS?

We should want to give our children a chance to live a long, healthy life not be plagued by some injury from highschool football for the rest of their lives.

Pluto

September 24th, 2010
2:38 pm

I have a hard time understanding why anyone would welcome more anything from the federal government. Another democrat from California is going to make it all better by intruding into our lives. But it is such a worthy cause, our children. When we come to the realization that we are selling our souls to the devil maybe we’ll start accepting responsibility for our families and ourselves. May God have mercy on this country.

Extremes make me scream!!!!!

September 24th, 2010
4:30 pm

I believe if your argument is to the extreme (on either side), you lose credibility. To say no government involvement ever is an extreme. Even your basic regulation is government involvement.

bootney farnsworth

September 24th, 2010
4:43 pm

since HS I have had 4 more concussions. each concussion makes a person more prone at have another. for years I’ve suffered from chronic headaches, blurry vision when tired, and eye exams that include dialation send me into a dark room for the day.

I’ve also recently begun to have foot tremors and my concentration drifts from time to time. all of which have been linked directly or indirectly to my multiple concussions.

I don’t begrudge anyone, but it would have been nice to have had better information. I probably would have kept playing, but my folks might have acted differently. but coulda/woulda/shoulda and $2.50 get a gallon of gas if you’re lucky.

adults should be free to make whatever choice they wish with their health. and their kids health. but they should have access to all
the information necessary for their choices.

we require kids get immunizations for school, licences to drive,
have limits on how many hours a child can work. since we require
a child to have an exam as part of the process to play, I frankly
don’t see what the issue is about having an MD release a kid to play
after having a concussion.

Pluto, you’re a moron.

bootney farnsworth

September 24th, 2010
4:48 pm

@ Sharon,

you’re correct. there are two issues needing addressing before things get some level of sane.

1) the sports community has to acknowledge cheerleading is a competitive athletic event and respond accordingly.

2) y’all gotta tone down the PC police. its a well known fact HS girls
are FAR more likely to suffer catastropic (sp, sorry) knee injuries than boys due to anatomic realities. but try to bring that up oustide and orthopediac clinic and you get roasted.

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Pluto

September 27th, 2010
12:44 pm

@ bootney Ouch! That hurt and I’m not kidding. I didn’t realize that you were the only one ever having concussions and therefore qualified to give the last word on the subject.

Seattle Physicians

September 28th, 2010
7:30 am

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