Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 2, 2012

Editorial: New law ensures proper training


---- — The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that sports-related head injuries, including concussions, have increased 60 percent in the last 10 years.

It's likely that not only has the occurance of sports-related head injuries increased, the reporting of sports-related head injuries has also gone up, due in no small part to the greater awareness among adults of what a head injury looks like, the affects of such an injury on a young athlete and how serious it can be in the long run.

Most anyone who has played a contact sport, such as football or soccer or even skiing has likely had his or her "bell rung" at some time or another. Anyone who watches televised college or professional sports has seen world-class athletes out cold from a head impact.

For a long time, it was like a badge of honor for an athlete kocked loopy to jump back up and get back in the game. Coaches often encouraged athletes to just shake if off. Most of those coaches didn't know what kinds of symptoms to look for or what to do about them if they did.

The Michigan Legislature has passed a law (Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign it) that aims to safeguard high school student athletes who suffer concussions.

The bill will require coaches to immediately remove an athlete from practice or a game if a concussion is suspected; a player could only return when cleared by a doctor.

This is a major step in protecting young brains from potentially lifelong impairment and ensuring they aren't put in jeopardy without a chance to recover. Immediately getting back in the game — when a foggy athlete whose reflexes have been slowed is more likely to be hit again — is the worst possible situation.

Making that call is up to coaches and other adults; the new bill helps them get it right.

The Michigan Department of Community Health will develop materials and training for athletes, parents and coaches on concussion-related injuries and treatments. They'll help identify the nature of concussions, spell out criteria for removing kids from practice or a game when it's suspected they've suffered a concussion, and the risks of not getting a young athlete out of harm's way if a concussion is suspected.

Kids are bigger, stronger and faster than ever, and the potential for a serious head injury is greater. The days of shrugging off an injury to show your toughness should be long gone. Coaches today are generally much more committed to keeping kids safe and more likely to recognize symptoms of concussions and other injuries.

Now it's the law.