The Concussion Conundrum

Concussions are a significant problem in sports, but players, coaches, and medical professionals wonder if enough is being done to ensure the safety of athletes.

Jake Matise, Columnist

From youth sports all the way to professional athletics, concussions are almost always prevalent, and many athletes, coaches, and parents are relatively unaware of just how serious a concussion can be. Every year, about 7,000 high school athletes sustain concussions, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Football is obviously the sport with the most concussions, but concussions can happen in just about any sport. Fortunately, measures have been put in place for almost all states to ensure that athletes suspected of having a concussion are put through proper protocol before being able to return to play.

Concussion laws are in place in 47 of the 50 states, including Arizona. Most of the state concussion laws are based off of the state of Washington’s Zackery Lystedt Law, which was named after a boy who suffered a severe brain injury in 2006 after playing a middle school football game with a concussion, according to Cronkite News.

Arizona’s concussion law states that a player suspected of having a concussion must be immediately pulled from their practice or game and not be allowed to return to sports until they are cleared to play by a medical professional. This is highly important, as a player obviously needs to be checked out by a doctor if they have a concussion. However, concussion laws are pretty limited in what they can actually do to prevent further injury.

For starters, most young athletes play sports because they love to compete and to win. If a player sustains a concussion during an important game, chances are they aren’t going to tell anyone they are having symptoms, because they don’t want to come out of the game. Not only do they want to play, but in competitive youth sports, they fear losing their spot in the starting lineup or even their spot on the roster if they tell their coach that they are hurt. I’ve seen players on club baseball teams over the years suffer an injury, and often times when they recover from their injury, they come back to find that they no longer have a spot on the roster. It’s a harsh reality for many young athletes, and this can cause them to put their safety in jeopardy in fear of not being able to play.

Steps are being taken to help Arizona student athletes to understand the severity of a concussion, however. The recent addition of Barrow Brainbook, which is now a mandatory online course that high school athletes must complete as a part of their paperwork, is designed to do just that. Through the use of a social media-like simulation, the course discusses concussion symptoms, as well as continuing to rephrase that you need to tell someone if you think you have a concussion. I believe that this is definitely a step in the right direction, and the course will only continue to grow as time passes.

The bottom line here is that student athletes need to be accountable, as there is only so much that the state and school district can do. Concussion protocol means nothing if you never actually tell anyone that you are feeling symptoms in the first place. Your health is important above all else, and it isn’t worth basically risking your life by continuing to play with a concussion.