Concussion caution now part of state law

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Shake it off and get back in the game. Be strong, be tough, get out there and play.

That might be appropriate advice when it comes to minor bumps and bruises, but that kind of coaching could lead to lifetime disability or even death if it is applied to a head injury.

The National Football League is dealing with the results of repeated, long-term concussion, and concerns are extending to younger and younger athletes. Boxing has long been known to leave participants with permanent brain damage, and even supposed non-contact sports are under more and more scrutiny as to their safety in regard to brain injury.

It's always been a good idea for coaches to be extra cautious when it comes to concussion, but now it's the law.

As of July 1, 2012, the Concussion Awareness Act will become law. All public, private and parochial schools as well as organized youth sports sponsored by villages, cities, businesses or non-profit organizations for children ages 19 and under will be required to offer training regarding concussions to coaches.

Under the law, an athlete showing signs or symptoms of a concussion, thereby being "reasonably suspected" of having had a concussion, must be removed from participation and may not return until evaluated by a licensed health care professional.

The law passed by the Nebraska Legislature requires concussion education for all individuals working in youth sports; removal of young athletes if they are suspected of sustaining a concussion during play; and the stipulation that athletes cannot return to play unless cleared by a licensed health care provider.

We've heard sports commentators joke that "he got his bell rung" after a paticularly hard hit, but those remarks are, fortunately, becoming more and more rare.

What was once seen as normal side effect of rough-and-tumble play is now viewed a brain injury with the potential to kill or permanently injure athletes, particularly adolescents.

The Brain Injury Association of Nebraska notes that a concussion is a brain injury that results in a temporary disruption of normal brain function, and occurs when the brain is violently rocked back-and-forth or twisted inside the skull as a result of a blow to the head or body. Continued participation in any sport following a concussion can lead to worsening concussion symptoms, as well as increased risk for further injury to the brain, even death.

Concussion rates are increasing in high school sports to the point that the Centers for Disease Control and prevention has concluded that sports concussions in the United States have reached an "epidemic level."

The Sports Concussion Institute estimates that 10 percent of high school athletes in contact sports suffer a concussion each season.

No, coaches and youth sponsors aren't expected to diagnose a concussion, but they are asked to use their best judgment as to whether a young athlete exhibits symptoms such as being dazed or stunned, confused about assignment or position, unsure of the game, score or opponent, moves clumsily, talks slowly or has other signs. State-approved training for coaches is available at www.dhhs.ne.gov/concussions or for healthcare providers at


For more information on brain injury contact the Nebraska Brain Injury Association at 800-444-6443 or www.biane.org.

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