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Report Finds Little Research on Concussions in Young Athletes, Injuries Still on the Rise

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council called for a national system to track sports-related concussions last Wednesday. The sense of urgency came after an IOM report found that no one knows how often the youngest athletes suffer concussions or which sports have the highest rates. It also wasn’t clear if better headgear would help. (IOM, Sports-Related Concussions in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture, October 30, 2013)

In the past decade more awareness has been given to seriousness of concussions and professional sports associations, such as the NFL, are finally paying attention to the problem. Despite this, the IOM panel found that young athletes still face a “culture of resistance” to reporting the injury and staying on the sidelines until it’s healed.

In a press release on October 20, 2013, IOM committee chairman Dr. Robert Graham said, “[A] concussion is an injury that needs to be taken seriously. If an athlete has a torn ACL on the field, you don’t expect him to tape it up and play.” See More.

According to an article by the Associated Press, reports of sports concussions are on the rise, amid headlines about former professional players who suffered long-term impairment after repeated blows. Wednesday’s report said 250,000 people 19 years old and younger were treated in emergency rooms for concussions and other sports- or recreation-related brain injuries in 2009, up from 150,000 in 2001. It’s not clear how many concussions and other related brain injuries go undiagnosed. (AP, More study urged on concussions in young athletes, October 31. 2013)

“It’s a shame that so many of our young people are facing brain injuries at such an early age. What’s worse is that the sports culture tells them they should play through it. They don’t realize that playing through can affect their mental stamina for the rest of their life. A concussion can easily cause long-term problems for a child,” says Frank N. Darras, America’s top disability lawyer who is a regular expert guest in national broadcast media.

The data is clear for high school, collegiate, and professional sports. Concussion rates for male athletes in high school and college are highest for football, ice hockey, lacrosse, and wrestling. For women, it’s soccer, lacrosse, and basketball. Women’s ice hockey also has one of the highest reported concussion rates at the college level.

According to the IOM panel, there’s no similar data on concussion rates for younger children who play sports, whether on school teams or in community leagues.

Every state except Mississippi has passed a concussion law, following a 13-year-old in Washington who suffered permanent disability after returning to a football game despite a concussion. Yet, it’s not always easy to spot a concussion and most young athletes play without regular access to a professional trained to spot them. *

“Starting in high school, trainers are there at every game. Students and professionals trained in sports medicine are watching for signs of concussions and other injuries. Earlier than that, there’s not that protection and the father who volunteered to be your son’s PeeWee coach isn’t trained yet to recognize the sometimes subtle signs of a concussion. This leaves the youngest among us the most vulnerable. More research is needed to identify trends so we can start taking steps to really protect our kids from concussion disabilities,” says Darras.

  • Source AP, More study urged on concussions in young athletes , October 31, 2013

DarrasLaw is Americas' most honored and decorated disability litigation firm in the country. Mr. Darras has seen more, evaluated more, litigated more, and resolved more individual and group long term disability and long-term care cases than any other lawyer in the United States.

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