Archive for Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bill targets prevention of sports head injuries

February 1, 2011, 11:15 a.m. Updated February 7, 2011, 12:36 a.m.


— No one would hit a soccer ball with a laptop computer.

“You would be appalled and furious that such a fine, delicate instrument would be used in such a misused fashion,” said Dr. Bart Grelinger, a neurologist from Wichita.

But Grelinger adds, “We think nothing of seeing a star soccer player jump up and deflect a ball with their head towards the goal.”

His argument is that the human brain is more complicated, more delicate and less reparable than a laptop computer.

Physicians and sports trainers are pushing for legislation aimed at protecting young athletes from head injuries during sports.

Senate Bill 33 would require that an athlete who appears to have suffered a concussion be removed from practice or a game. It also would require clearance from a health care provider before the youth could participate again, and provides education on head injuries to youngsters, parents and coaches.

Grelinger said concussions represent nearly 9 percent of all high school athletic injuries.

“We are getting leaner, meaner, faster and have more agility, and that means head injuries,” he said.

And because concussions are invisible — unlike a broken arm or twisted ankle — sometimes children are sent back “in harm’s way” before they should go, he said.

“Putting athletes at risk before their brains are ready to control the next trauma, should injury reoccur, is careless, and once understood, unconscionable,” he said.

The Lawrence school district policy is to follow Kansas State High School Activities Association guidelines, which require any athlete who exhibits behavior consistent with a concussion, such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems, to be immediately removed from play. The student can only be returned to play with written clearance from a health care professional, and it cannot be on the same day.

Recent studies that have focused on professional football players, have shown that former NFL players have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory ailments 19 times more than the normal rate for men.

David Carr, who is director of the athletic training education program at Kansas University, said the Kansas bill should ensure that whoever OKs a student’s return should be trained and up to date on the management and treatment of concussions.

“Our knowledge on concussion is advancing every day,” he said.

Several members of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee wondered if Senate Bill 33 was an overreach by government, while another said the measure didn’t go far enough.

Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, who is a physician, had a problem with the bill allowing a licensed health care provider to provide approval for a student to resume sports. Reitz said that decision should probably be left up to a specialist, such as a neurologist.

But Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, said legislators often tout that schools should be locally controlled.

“This appears to possibly be another step in micromanaging how the school districts run their operations,” he said.

Grelinger said the legislation represented “a great start” but needed more work.

He said the proposal, which currently covers school sports, needs to be expanded to cover sports outside of school, such as soccer clubs.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt submitted written testimony in support of the legislation.

“Given our experience at the professional level, we believe a similar approach is appropriate and necessary when dealing with concussions in youth sports,” Goodell said.

“While concussions occur in football, they are also prevalent in many youth sports including soccer, hockey and basketball — whether played by boys or girls,” said Hunt, chairman and chief executive officer of the Chiefs. “This legislation will help parents, teachers, coaches and the youth athletes themselves recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions and respond appropriately.”


Paul R Getto 7 years, 4 months ago

"Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan and a physician, had a problem with the bill allowing a licensed health care provider to provide approval for a student to resume sports. Reitz said that decision should probably be left up to a specialist, such as a neurologist." === This is a serious issue, no doubt. The upside; athletes will be safer; the downside, more government control and increased expenses for schools and parents of athletes. Are there enough neurologists to take care of 1,600+ schools playing a variety of sports? Is Dr., Reitz including a way to pay for this?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 4 months ago

From what I've heard/read about concussions is that if the brain is allowed to heal fully, there is usually no permanent damage. But if subsequent blows against the head happen before the brain has fully recovered, that's when permanent damage can occur, the symptoms of which may not appear for decades.

So, the important thing after a concussion is to stop playing until recovery is complete, which can often take several weeks.

Jillian Andrews 7 years, 4 months ago

Incorrect. Brain cells don't regenerate. Any brain injury (concussion included) causes cell death. People adapt and learn to use other areas of their brain to some extent, but the damage has been done.

rgh 7 years, 4 months ago

Schools better have a specialist look at kids anyway even if silly legislators put this into law to avoid lawsuits. I have the ultimate responsibility as a parent to know how my kid is acting and feeling and to him not to play or practice until he's seen a physician and I feel comfortable. If a coach doubts that responsibility then that's when they will be in trouble.

Fatty_McButterpants 7 years, 4 months ago

Good luck on this law avoiding lawsuits. All this will do is change the target of a lawsuit from coaches, who usually have no money to give as damages, to the doctor(s) who gave little Johnny the approval to head back on the field before he got his bell rung again. So... the doctor's medical malpractice insurance will go up, as will the costs passed on to you.

Robert Oelschlaeger 7 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Sen, Reitz. I feel that a specialist should be the one to give clearance to a young athlete before they return to the game after such an injury. I knew the family of the young man that lost his life this past fall. It seems that the bill basically contains the current wording of the High School Associations statement on the procedure to follow. Just take it one more step and involve a specialist along with a regular doctor making sure that every possible angle is covered before allowing the return to soon.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 4 months ago

Captz615: I fully agree, just wonder how this will get done in the real world. KSHSAA and the NCAA are on this mission, as they should be. Making it work is the real issue.

ATC 7 years, 4 months ago

Most of these comments are missing the mark. This bill is more about education of coaches, parents, and athletes than it is about enforcing rules. While the HS Activities Association has published 'suggested' guidelines that are a good start, they need to be 'required'. Everyone involved needs to know what to look for and what can happen.

Jillian Andrews 7 years, 4 months ago

Brain injury is incredibly serious. HS/College/Pro sports have all "pish-poshed" the issue for years. Obviously adequately addressing the issue on the local level (or any other level) isn't working. Thanks Rep. Kelsey for taking the low road and ignoring this serious issue by beating that dusty old gem -- the "big government" drum. Snore.

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