My baby is 3 years old today. It's hard to believe that the last 3 years have gone by so quickly, but it's also hard for many to believe that my little one is only 3 years old. Darling 2 is big, tall, strong, tough, fast, a quick study and charismatic. He's the size of most 4 year olds and some 5 year olds. He's not afraid to tackle or be tackled. He'll most likely be a football coach's and a hockey coach's dream. And that's got this mama worried.
Friday Night Lights
I grew up in a small town in Texas. Almost every boy in the town played football. The whole town turned out for a home game on Friday night. It didn't matter what the record was, year after year, the crowd was there to support. We had a big, nice stadium to show for it too.
My brother started playing football in 5th grade. He had a number of injuries over the years, none that stopped him for long. I recall many classmates on crutches, in casts, etc. after a Friday night collision on the field. It was just part of the game.
In the past year or so I've been reading a lot about the dangers of concussions as specifically related to football injuries. It started with NFL partnering with Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy in an attempt to research and better understand repetitive concussive injuries. Hundreds of former athletes, including a number of retired and active NFL players have agreed to donate their brains to this research program. There are about 70 brains banked at Boston University now.
Then, as this program began finding significant links between repeated head trauma and suicide and neurodegenerative diseases, the immense sacrifice that athletes are asked to make in order to play well, get scholarships and make millions begin to emerge. This issue slowly became more mainstream news and more and more athletes have put their names on the registry pledging to have their brains picked for any clues that might lead to a safer game or better helmets or improved precautions and care. This research program and its results calling for added safeguards have had a trickle-down effect and the information is now reaching young athletes.
But not before Austin Trenum suffered a concussion during a football game last fall and subsequently and totally unexpectedly committed suicide two days later. Austin was a high school senior in Virginia with a promising future. Austin's brain was sent to Boston University and was found to have structural damage; among the areas damaged were the parts that affect judgment and impulse control. While the doctors can't say with complete certainty what made Austin commit this devastating act, they do feel there is strong circumstantial evidence. Austin's parents have worked hard to educate others about these dangers and how to prevent this from happening. I'll be talking more about Austin this week.
In response to deaths like Austin's and the findings of Boston University states have been passing new laws requiring better care for young athletes who have suffered a concussion or even display the warning signs of a concussion and providing for education for coaches, parents and medical personnel.
Minnesota's New Concussion Law
On September 1, 2011, Minnesota's new concussion law went into effect. MN's law says that if a young athlete under 18 is showing signs of a concussion, coaches must not let that athlete play again until a medical provider clears him or her. The law also requires all coaching personnel receive periodic training about signs of concussions, dangers, treatments, etc. The law further provides that parents will have access to important information regarding warning signs, dangers, how to treat these injuries, etc. The MN law includes not only school athletics, but also youth sports organizations not associated with schools districts.
State Concussion Laws
MN joins more than 30 other states that now have laws that offer additional protection for young athletes who may have suffered from a concussion. Many of these states have rushed to pass these laws in the last year. As of March 2011, there were 15 states with such laws.
Texas passed a law in 2007 providing that coaches must complete a safety training course as developed by the Commissioner of Education. Then, in 2009, both Oregon and Washington state passed laws that require young athletes be sidelined until a medical exam and release to return to the field. The majority of these new state laws, which were passed in 2010 and 2011, followed in the footstep of OR and WA. TX passed a new law this summer that requires coaches to take an athlete off the field if they suspect a concussion until medical personnel clears the athlete. You can find more information about the state laws in place here.
As a mom to two Darling Boys, I was hoping to avoid the sports that are most likely to cause concussions; that is, football and hockey. With each passing year, as my tall, muscular boys keep growing bigger and taller, I realize that I will probably be in the stands, or pacing behind the seats, as my boys play these rough sports in the years to come. I'll be discussing how to educate yourself about the dangers of concussions, what to watch for and how to properly treat them, etc. the rest of this week.
Can you tell from these photos which sport we love? Over and out...