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Brain injuries in high school sports

With the renewed media attention on brain injuries in professional athletes, many parents cannot help but wonder; what about their children who play high school sports? What are schools doing to protect against brain injuries?

Many people would say: Not enough. Football brain injury statistics shed some light on the problem. According to a Purdue University study, more than 67,000 young men who play football in high school and college are diagnosed with a concussion every year, and the number is likely much larger if you include undiagnosed concussions and other brain injuries.

Unfortunately, monitoring for sports injuries such as concussions often falls on coaches, since many schools cannot afford to hire part- or full-time athletic trainers.

If that is the situation, then our coaches must be ready to recognize and respond to concussion injuries. That is why Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law last August requiring coaches to go through concussion awareness training every other year. "Hopefully," the President of the California Athletic Trainers Association, Mike West, said, the bill will "make [coaches] aware of the potential consequences of, if something is not identified, what could happen to an athlete."

If your child does suffer a concussion in a sporting accident, he or she needs medical attention immediately, no matter what symptoms appear.

Liability for sports brain injuries

Brain injuries are not simple to diagnose and they affect everyone differently. Furthermore, some young athletes are capable to "assuming the risk" of brain injuries when they sign the agreement to play sports with their high schools or colleges. For these reasons, determining liability for a sports brain injury can be challenging.

In some cases, however, it is possible to argue that a child does not appreciate the consequences of playing a sport. The new law also puts more responsibility on high school coaches to respond appropriately to injuries. A coach who allows a child to continue to play sports after what appears to be a minor head injury could be making a very negligent decision that could affect a child for the rest of his or her life.

Source: HealthyCal.org, "New law targets brain injuries in high school sports," Joy Hepp, Dec. 3, 2012

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