Football, soccer, lacrosse...just about any youth sport includes the risk of head injury and concussion. But New York laws may not be as tough as they should to protect children.
Dr. Mark Herceg is a father and a specialist in Rehab Psychology. at Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains. As a father who struggles to watch his own children compete in sports, Herceg stresses the importance of protecting student-athletes from concussions when they play contact sports and monitoring head injuries when they occur.
Although Herceg lauds Gov. Andrew Cuomo's effort to pass a law requiring schools to keep kids who incur concussions out of the game for 24 hours after they have been determined concussion-free, he does not believe the law goes far enough to keep athletes' lives (and futures) safe.
Herceg wrote the following letter:
As we all know, the issue of concussion management has been an issue that has been addressed on state by state basis. In 2011, New York was the most recent state to pass the Concussion Management Awareness Act (bill S. 3953), which was sponsored by State Sen. Kemp Hannon and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. It required that students who sustain concussions are kept out of physical activities for at least 24 hours after the have become symptom free. Final clearance would need to come from a physician.
In September of 2011, Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law and it became effective July 1, 2012. It's a good law at recognizing that a concussion has occurred, but not much else.
Although many in the state have praised the legislation, the final bill in fact did not require each school district to establish a concussion management team consisting of experts as well as school personnel. It only encouraged each district to establish a concussion management team and recommend but not require students to undergo baseline examinations. Most districts have purchased a computerized program (ImPACT), had their athletic trainers "trained" by taking a course, and now are "experts" in the brain.
Although it is true that more people have become more educated about concussions, the fact remains that not everyone is an expert. Taking a one to two day course does not make one an expert evaluator or clinician. If that were the case, then anyone taking a CPR course could be a cardiologist. Schools, teams, and the public needs to understand that understanding the brain and its role on cognition and behavior/emotions is complex. The need for true expertise is vital, especially in developing brains during adolescence.
The new law does nothing to address the requirement of qualified, experienced professionals to be involved in the health and safety of children playing sports. As such, awareness has improved, but diagnosis and most importantly treatment, remains lacking.
Every parent should be asked this question: Would you trust to have your child examined for a medical condition by someone who is not medical professional or medical expert? I know I wouldn't.
Do you think your school's athletic department does anough to keep your kids safe from suffering lasting reprecussions from head injuries? If not, what more do you think should be done?