Head cases

State may need law to ensure youth athletes get protection they need
Feb. 25, 2013 @ 12:01 AM

The level of scrutiny of high school athletes varies from school to school, district to district. Sevier County is fortunate to have trained personnel at football games who can intervene in case a player suffers an apparent head injury — or any injury for that matter.

The increased attention being paid to concussions and the possible long-term effects even one can have on an athlete is a good thing, because it is forcing schools and youth leagues to pay closer attention to such things.

Should it require laws to ensure youngsters are protected? Maybe so. Tennessee legislators are looking at a bill that would require schools and other organizations conducting youth athletic programs to adopt concussion policies.

You’d think they already had, but there are few sure things when it comes to youth sports organizations. The desire to win starts in T-ball and never lets up, it seems. Leaving such decisions in the hands of inexperienced and unqualified people is a risk.

Rep. Cameron Sexton is the sponsor of the House version of the bill. Under the proposal, schools are required to “adopt guidelines ... as approved by the department of health to inform and educate coaches, school administrators, youth athletes and their parents or guardians of the nature, risk and symptoms of concussion and head injury, including continuing to play after concussion or head injury.”

Sexton told the Associated Press that said all parties involved seem to be pleased with the current version, which also appears to have bipartisan support. “We’ve worked hard with all the groups from last year ... and they’re all on board with this version of the bill,” said Sexton, R-Crossville.

This month, the Youth Sports Safety Alliance released recommendations aimed at protecting the nearly 8 million students participating in high school sports each year. Among the recommendations was requiring students to have a pre-season physical exam, including testing for some of the 400,000 concussions students suffer annually.

Similar rules should be required in all states, at all levels. Protecting young people must be a priority for adults in positions of responsibility. If they won’t do it voluntarily, then they must be forced to. A law may be the only answer.