Monday, June 8, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: a blow to the head

Header by RBradburn.There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today about concussions and high school athletes. Concussion and high school sports, especially girls’ soccer and basketball, have long fascinated me as a subject for fiction and nonfiction for teens. Girl’s soccer is second only to football in total concussion incidents nationwide. Briefly, I’m interested in the unique pressure that comes from wanting to look tough playing sports that aren’t considered “tough” by the mainstream. The New York Times’s Alan Schwarz has done good reporting on this before on youth soccer and football.

The new NY Times piece is really fascinating because it raises the tension between medical best practice and incentivizing nondisclosure of concussion. An international panel of neurologists has recommended that young athletes suspected of sustaining concussion should not be cleared to return to play the same day under any circumstances (previously, they could return if cleared by a trainer or doc). Another group of concerned docs and trainers raises this counterpoint:

[Doctors], many of whom work the sidelines of high school athletic events, said they feared the effects of such strictness. They predicted that athletes would respond by hiding their injuries from coaches and trainers even more than they are already known to do, leaving them at risk for a second and more dangerous concussion.

Obviously, this is complicated. I can believe that though most teens are perfectly capable of  making the correct choice between staying on the sidelines and going back in with a possible concussion under calm circumstances, many will make a different choice in the amped-up intensity of the game.

I think there’s a lot to say on this subject that teens would be interested to hear, both from experts and their peers.

Photo from Bob Bradburn, used under Creative Common license.


Jennie Englund said...

It's an interesting--and alarming--issue.

Have you checked out the April 13 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED?

"The Kids Aren't Alright" gives more support for less activity.

Hope Vestergaard said...

Interesting! Particularly the statistic that girl get so many more concussions than boys. My boys (15 and 10.5) both play soccer and we've seen kids with concussions. It's a strange sort of injury because it isn't always immediately apparent when a kid has been concussed. Symptoms showed up hours later for one boy we all thought was fine. There are gel headbands that some clubs are requiring, but I haven't seen any definitive studies that prove they are effective. The stories about NFL players with disabilities due to repeat concussions are also heartbreaking. I heard a disturbing piece about high school athletes on NPR: From the sidelines of high school sports, I get the impression that while they are not the norm, there are a good number of determined HS athletes who will keep playing. I heard a rumor that someone's developing helmets that will measure the force of hits, but that doesn't help soccer players.

Wyman Stewart said...

Sounds like girls are not being properly coached to avoid head injuries or girls are not as adept as they should be at avoiding such injuries. Better training/teaching methods for coaches and players, protective headgear, and rules changes may be the way to go to correct this situation. I would think it would be mandatory for anyone who has a "head incident" in a soccer match of any type should be on the sidelines the rest of the day and a full evaluation during and after the game should be in order. Especially before the person is allowed to play in the team's next game.

Good post, but I am left with more questions than anything else. Football is simply a violent sport in which many violent tactics are tolerated, expected and dare I say, taught and encouraged. Is girl's soccer making that same mistake?

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