Youth Sports and Head Injuries

Sports are an integral part in the life of many children.  Sports not only teach children and young adults that hard work and personal discipline will help them achieve their personal best, but are a way for families to show their support to their young athletes.  Unfortunately with all the positive aspects associated with youth sports, these activities also carry real risks, and one of the most damaging risk is that of traumatic brain injury.

A traumatic brain injury is a severe blow to the head, which impairs the brain’s normal functions.  Symptoms of this type of injury include confusion, motor dysfunction, dizziness, headaches and temporary amnesia.  Continued concussions or other head injuries could run the risk of damage to the brain and spinal cord.  Because of the stories of professional athletes suffering from brain injuries after playing hockey, football, soccer and other sports, public awareness about the seriousness of head injuries is growing.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), roughly 446,788 sports-related head injuries were treated in our nation’s emergency rooms in 2009.  This number is an increase of approximately 95,000 from 2008.  A child who begins playing full-contact football at age six is at risk of brain injuries that could cause long-term cognitive damage.  

Parents, coaches and policy makers need to rethink how our youth can engage in sports safely.  Organizations and schools in some states are already doing this by reforming athletic programs in their schools and communities.  Minnesota passed legislation aimed at reducing sports-related brain injuries in youth by educating coaches, parent and young athletes about the symptoms and risks of head injuries.  The new law ensures that those young people injured while playing a sport, cannot return to the sport before seeing medical personnel.

One of the largest football leagues, Pop Warner, recently announced it will limit the amount of contact and collisions in practice to protect its football players, roughly 285,000 players, from potential repetitive brain trauma.  Pop Warner took this move because of a study that showed second-grade football players suffered more than 100 head impacts during five games and ten practices.  Pop Warner’s move to limit contact in practice should send a message to other organizations and governing bodies that procedures, training methods and the rules of the game can be modified to ensure our youth participate safely.

The willingness of professional athletes to speak out about this subject has brought more public attention to sports-related head injuries.  More than 2,000 retired NFL players filed a lawsuit against  football helmet maker Riddell and the NFL for hiding information about the dangers of concussions and the consequences of hits to the head.

By coming together for the best interests of our children, coaches, parents, health professionals, policy makers and the athletic community can reform athletic programs in schools and communities, educate others about the dangers of sports-related brain injuries, and create opportunities for our children to participate in sports while keeping them healthy and safe.

An injury to a child at a sporting event can impact not only the child, but the entire family.  If your child has been injured during a sporting event, an experienced  personal injury lawyer can provide the highest caliber of legal representation you deserve.