Current focus on head trauma is positive step

And as more athletes, coaches and parents accept it is foolish to ignore pain and symptoms of a concussion, the more the problem will be reduced.


Concern over head injuries in sports is relatively new.

In the past, players were willing to ignore the pain and symptoms -- from dizziness to nausea -- so they could continue to play.

But in recent years it has become obvious concussions are incredibly serious. Head traumas can kill or cause permanent damage. Multiple head injuries increase the risks significantly.

As more research has been done and serious effects of head trauma have been witnessed, laws were put in place to reduce head injuries in all sports. In Washington state, the Lystedt law was approved mandating what has to be done before an athlete can return to games or even practice.

The law says "athletes cannot return to practice/game until evaluated by a licensed physician trained in the diagnosis and management of concussions and given written medical authorization."

Local high schools have gone a step further, requiring athletes to take a base-line cognitive test that is retaken after a head injury. This essentially allows medical professionals to determine if the athlete is thinking straight.

It took some time before the Lystedt law and other laws were accepted. The old "I-can-tough-it-out" mentality was ingrained in athletes. Coaches, too, had a tough time letting go of the past.

Yet, as high schools, colleges and the pros began taking the steps to prevent athletic head injuries the old mentality began to fade.

Just last week more than 1,000 former NFL players filed a federal lawsuit in Atlanta claiming that pro football didn't properly protect its players from concussions. The lawsuit says not enough is being done now to take care of those suffering the long-term effects of concussions. The NFL, as expected, said the allegations are without merit.

It will take years for this case to make its way through the court system. But what is now clear is that most players have finally accepted -- or, at least, conceded -- the dangers of head traumas. It has become more acceptable for players to report head injuries and sit out of games or practice. More coaches get it too.

This isn't going to put an end to head traumas in football or any other sport.

Still, athletes (and their parents) must accept the risks associated with the sport they choose to participate in. If it's football or basketball or baseball or softball, there is a chance the athlete could suffer head trauma.

Nevertheless, the social acceptance of this problem will go a long way toward reducing head injuries.


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