If Concussions Can Devastate NFL Players, Why Are We Letting Children With Multiple Concussions Keep Playing Sports?
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I know this isn't the kind of thing we normally cover at C&L, but I thought it was something everyone should see. This is just plain crazy. To allow these kids with multiple concussions to keep playing sports is like playing Russian roulette. The article doesn't mention that the effect of concussions is cumulative—you don't "bounce back." The parents who allow them to play again are derelict in their duty, and so are the schools for assuming that kind of liability on behalf of the already-stressed players.
More importantly, these head injuries are not just a personal problem. They will place a lifelong and costly strain on medical resources, and make it very difficult for these children to be productive adults:
Outwardly, they seem like any other teens, wearing tight, low-rise jeans, black eyeliner, and fluorescent nail polish. But at an age when most kids are obsessing over the newest Twilight movie or who's going to the prom, Casey and her friends commiserate about migraines, memory loss, and problems keeping up in school. They can't tolerate the lights and noise of amusement parks, dances, or movies.
"It's overwhelming. An entire life changed," said Allison Kasacavage, a freshman at Downingtown East High School, sounding wearier than most 15-year-olds. She said she had suffered five concussions, three from soccer, starting at age 12.
After getting elbowed in the head, knocked unconscious, and taking too many headers and colliding with another girl in three separate games over 18 months, "I knew I was done with soccer," she said. "I couldn't go back."
The issue of chronic head injuries for big-name, highly paid pro football and hockey players has been in the headlines recently, punctuated by worries of a link to this month's suicide of former NFL superstar Junior Seau. But what several experts have described as a public-health crisis among young female athletes has been flying under the radar.
According to a study of high school soccer players in the Journal of Athletic Training, girls sustained reported concussions 68 percent more often than boys did. Girls soccer trailed only football when it came to the total number of concussions among young athletes, according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
As experts labor to understand the reasons for this, they are alarmed at what they see as lax or inadequate rules and poor judgment in letting girls like Casey and her friends back on the field so soon after a serious head injury.
"It was shocking in this day and age to see that kids are playing with overt symptoms after multiple concussions and recent blows to the head," said Philip Schatz, a professor at St. Joseph's University and an expert in head injuries who learned of the cluster of cases in Downingtown after it was reported last week on NBC's Rock Center With Brian Williams.
Schatz noted that most school soccer programs have concussion protocols that require athletes to leave a game, take off a week or longer, and get an independent medical evaluation. Thirty-three states, including New Jersey, have laws mandating concussion education for coaches, but that doesn't always apply to travel and rec programs.
"If you were talking about adults and mild heart attacks, only one would require a complete change in lifestyle," Schatz said. "Here we are subjecting our children to multiple traumatic brain injuries and not changing their behavior."