When In Doubt, Sit The Player Out
Maybe I have spent far too much time recently watching games, both pro and amateur, that left me aching after seeing some rather severe physical blows to the body of players.
I know football and hockey require contact. And just maybe I'm among the small numbers noticing that no matter how many rules, or even the quality of good and safe equipment, players are taking some punishing jolts to the most important part of the body: the head.
It got me thinking about long term effects from concussions suffered in high school football or hockey. And, by the way, girls also get concussions from sports - like a rough hit in a flag football game or having that hard ball from a field hockey stick accidentally hit a player.
Hearing the crack of a head during a game can send a chill up your spine. There are sports that don't require protective head gear - like rugby and soccer - and blows to the head should light up some signals to youngsters, parents and even coaches.
I am not suggesting banning school sports or having everyone wear concrete helmets. This is just an opinion about what appears to be increasing worries, long term concerns and maybe memory impairment after someone has taken a severe knock to the head. There are plenty of research papers and documents on this topic.
I have been trying to get some fresh Canadian statistics on sports-related concussions in high school sports. No luck, so far. In the United States, they call concussions an epidemic with an estimated number of between two and just over 3.5 million. That's a scary number.
I know in the Greater Toronto Area, that not every high school has a licensed athletic trainer or medical personnel at every game. On many occasions, there isn't even a first aid box beside the official scorer. I even question whether many coaches and teachers know what to do in an emergency or is it dialing three numbers - 911.
At a football game I was at recently, standing on the sideline I witnessed two players collide - helmet to helmet. Play stopped, one player got up quickly. The other needed about 10 minutes, and he left the field likely hearing lots of birds chirping. It got me thinking: who has the final say on whether the player returns to the game?
Alarming statistics in the U.S., and as recent as 2008, claim 41 per cent of high school athletes who suffered concussions returned to play far too soon. Coaches play a huge role in helping to prevent serious injury and in managing it properly if a concussion occurs.
Montreal researchers, in a study of former university athletes now in their 50s and 60s who suffered concussions, found a noticeable decline in the their mental processes. This was compared to former athletes who didn`t have an injury to the head.
Many of us have heard the phrase "when in doubt, sit the player out".
But, does it always happen?