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Published on Nov 11, 2011 by Edgar Snyder

Pennsylvania Taking Steps to Protect Student Athletes from Brain Injuries

football game

Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has become one of the most famous examples of how serious sports-related head injuries can be. Crosby suffered two concussions in one week in January and hasn't played in a game since. Just yesterday, the Penguins announced that he won't be playing this weekend and that his status remains "uncertain." It goes to show that concussions are more than just "a bump on the head."

Pennsylvania's senate recently passed legislation aimed at protecting all of the young athletes out there – it sets specific guidelines for coaches and parents with the goal of preventing traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in student athletes.

Head injuries like Crosby's are particularly dangerous because they can be deceptive. There's no blood, no broken bones, and sometimes no obvious sign that something's wrong. In fact, many mild TBIs go undiagnosed until long after they've occurred, when a person has trouble doing something that was once a routine task. What's really scary is that according to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 300,000 children and teens suffer a sports- or recreation-related TBI each year. And that number only includes those who lost consciousness. Because 90% of athletes don't lose consciousness, the number is probably much higher. Furthermore, once those kids have one TBI, they're at an increased risk of sustaining another.

So what is Pennsylvania doing to protect our young athletes? Under the new law, coaches would be required to remove students from play who display signs of a concussion until a medical professional examines them. Coaches would also have to complete concussion certification courses, and parents and guardians would have to read and sign documents about head injuries every year. The governor's office said he intends to sign the bill.

Here are some other facts about brain injuries to consider:

  • Even people recovering from a "mild traumatic brain injury" can experience symptoms that last over one year. These symptoms include fatigue, depression, dizziness, vision problems, memory loss, seizures, and sleep disturbances.
  • Recovery time for children is much longer than it is for adults.
  • Most concussions don't result in a loss of consciousness. Reacting properly to a person who has a concussion can prevent further injury or even death.

Sidney – hope you're back in the game soon. Go Pens!

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