Concussions in teenagers from high school sports are a serious concern among the medical profession. These concussions can have lifelong effects on the child’s developing brain and can affect their education, work, and social skills as they emerge into adulthood. To counteract this serious concern, every state across the country has enacted laws to try to reduce concussions within the last 10 years.
Though lawmakers had the best interest of student-athletes in mind when making the laws, they are problematic in that they rely on parents, coaches, athletic trainers and students to enforce them. Recent evidence shows that many are not. A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health interviewed athletic trainers at 64 high schools across the country about the barriers in enforcing the laws. Lack of educational materials topped the list. Much of the information is only available in English. As many high school students are non-native English speakers, this information doesn’t benefit them as much as it could if it were in their native language.
Athletic trainers and coaches are required in many states to immediately remove a player if they exhibit or complain of any symptoms related to a concussion. Unfortunately, many players don’t report symptoms to their athletic leaders, which results in their continued play in the game.
Another concern is healthcare. In some states, students who are suspected of having a concussion must visit a healthcare professional and get clearance to play before playing again. Those without health insurance may not be able to visit a doctor for clearance. This leaves the school with little or no control of the athlete continuing to play.
Experts say that schools want to comply with the laws but need more time and funding to fully do so. Lawmakers can help support the enforcement of these laws by allocating funding and time frames in which the schools have to carry out the measures.
Other experts say that it will just take time for coaches to change their way of thinking. Many older coaches grew up with a mentality that injuries should be played through. Recognizing and teaching that long-term success in athletics means taking the time to heal and sitting out during the healing process is one that students, parents, and coaches are learning together.