Protecting Young Athletes

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons knows that injury is the leading cause of death for Americans aged 1-44.

They have designated April as Injury Prevention Month to highlight strategies for reducing the incidence of injury of all types — workplace and highway accidents, domestic violence, falls suffered by the elderly and sports injuries suffered by young people.

This last category — young athletes injured in sporting activities — has also been the subject of discussion in the current session of Indiana’s General Assembly.

Indiana SB 403

Sen. Tim Lanane sponsored a bill (SB 403) that would expand the state’s concussion awareness requirements to include coaches of even younger players. Presently, Indiana’s state law addressing concussions and head injuries applies only to head and assistant coaches of high school football teams. Lanane’s proposal would require concussion awareness training for coaches and assistant coaches of sports teams from fifth grade on and would include numerous sports in addition to football: badminton, baseball, basketball, cheerleading, crew, cross country, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, rifles, rugby, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track, volleyball and wrestling. The bill passed the Senate in February but has stalled in the House Education Committee. It is not likely to pass this year but may be resurrected in a future session.

High School Football & Concussions

Football InjuryThe National Federation of State High School Associations estimates that about 140,000 high school athletes suffer concussions every year, although many go unreported. The potential scope of the problem expands when we expand the scope of the population to include younger players. According to the National Council of Youth Sports, 60 million children between the ages of 6 and 18 participate in some type of organized sport; every year, approximately 3 million are treated in emergency rooms for sports-related injuries and an additional 5 million are seen by their primary care physician or a sports medicine clinic.

Concussion awareness and training have received a great deal of attention because head injuries can be deadly.

The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research reports that there were six fatalities directly related to football during the 2014 football season, five in high school football and one at the college level, nearly all caused by brain injuries. Find out more about football concussions by viewing our recent infographic.

National ‘Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act’

In addition to state lawmakers like Indiana’s Sen. Lanane, those on the national level are also considering stricter measures to prevent, detect and treat concussions in student athletes. On April 16, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act. If the proposal becomes law, all states would have five years to issue guidance to schools about concussion plans, and any state which failed to do so would forfeit 5% of its federal formula funding.

Of course, concussions aren’t the only injury suffered in sports practices or competitions. Medical professionals are concerned about the increasing numbers of overuse injuries they are seeing in children, caused for the most part by the focus on more intense, repetitive and specialized training at even younger ages than in the past. Overuse injuries, which were frequently seen in adult athletes, are now showing up in youth — things like stress fractures, tendinitis, bursitis, apophysitis and osteochondral injuries of the joint surface. And things like heat and dehydration take their toll on sports participants as well.

Questions for Parents to Ask

If your child participates in an organized sport, make sure you ask questions that could expose potentially risky situations: Is the equipment in good condition and frequently inspected? Are the coaches qualified and knowledgeable about the sport? Do they know how to safely train young athletes? Is there an emergency response plan? Are coaches trained in first aid and CPR? Have the coaches received concussion awareness training?

We want Indiana’s young athletes to enjoy their years of play and to remain healthy for their future years of work and play. If you suspect your child’s injury resulted from negligence, call McNeely Stephenson at 1-317-825-5200.