Monday, March 16, 2009

To curb head injuries, a new law in Washington

In a move that will be applauded by parents groups - and should be copied by other states - Washington's senate last week passed a bill that requires young athletes with head injuries to get a medical assessment before being allowed back into games. The Washington state house had already passed such a bill.

Concussions among young players - how they are sometimes ignored by players and dismissed as inconsequential by coaches - have been getting much attention nationally. In Washington, the issue gained prominence in 2006 when a junior high school student, Zack Lystedt, suffered two head injuries one after another during a football workout. Zack suffered brain damage from the blows and still has trouble walking.

Troubling questions in cases such as Zack's are: Did the adults in charge recognize the signs of a concussion? Send a clear message to kids that blows to the head are serious business? Insist that they speak up at the first sign of a concession - dizziness, blurred vision and so on?

The best story I've read on the subject is one of the first, by Alan Schwarz of the New York Times. Alan has written about this issue at many levels of sports, from the National Football League to sports for kids. In this piece, he recounts incidents in which coaches clearly did not see the greater danger. In one case, after a football player suffers a suspected concussion and is ordered out of the game by a doctor, a high school coach instructs the player to change jersey numbers so he can re-enter the game secretly. A fine piece of reporting, and a disturbing story.

Thank you Doug Abrams.

1 comment:

Cal said...

I also think that pitchers in Little League and high school (and probably college also) should be made to wear batting helmets, or at least the helmet that base coaches in Major League baseball are required to wear. There are stories every year about youth pitchers who are seriously injured every year from line drives to the head. And this is especially with the use of aluminum bats at these levels.

These pitchers are a lot closer than the minor league first base coach that was killed several years ago by a line drive to the head.