If you haven't heard, concussions and football pretty much go hand in hand. After years of denial, the NFL has awoken to the serious issue of brain injuries and, as a result, colleges and high schools have begun to follow suit.
Now Louisiana is joining 26 other states which have passed so-called "anti-concussion" legislation which has gained widespread support form the medical community. In Louisiana, the law requires that a player who suffers a head injury must have medical clearance from a doctor to return to the field. For a sport that's rapidly becoming aware of the dangers of head injuries, this is a significant step towards ensuring kids are receiving proper care for head injuries.
It seems silly to point this out, but concussions in high school football are much more dangerous than they are in the NFL. For one, kids don't have the access to the highly advanced medical care available for NFL players (usually college athletic training students and high school coaches are charged with recognizing head injuries). For another, while there are just under 2,000 players on NFL rosters, there are some 13,000 high school players across the country (and that doesn't take into account middle schools and Pop Warner leagues).
In a much-cited survey, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that some 3.8 million sports-related concussions occurred last year. But the more disturbing study points to the alarming number of kids who suffer concussions and then return to play.
Kids returning to play shortly after head injuries points to the underlying problem that there is no set protocol for high school coaches to follow to see if their players have suffered a concussion. As a result of tight budgets and limited resources, there's no way to ensure that all high school events will have a medical crew on hand to diagnose and treat high school injuries.
Concussions are pretty much unavoidable in contact sports and there's no way we'll ever be able to get rid of them. But there's a line to be drawn between knowing a kid will likely suffer a concussion playing sports and allowing that kid to continue to play after suffering a head injury or being willfully ignorant to the dangers and lasting effects of those injuries.
Reportedly the Louisiana law has been welcomed by coaches with open arms and that's an important step. But it's still just one step needed in a complete revision of how players and the culture of high school athletics in general perceive head injuries and the consequences of inadequate care.