The national sports media and fan bases everywhere have gained greater awareness as a result of an increase in concussion-related incidents involving high-profile athletes – primarily at the professional level in the National Football League and Major League Baseball.
While the symptoms of a concussion may seem minimal, and an athlete may feel the ability to continue competing, medical professionals continue to make new discoveries daily on the long-term dangers of repeated concussions and the significance of treating these injuries properly. Studies throughout the past decade have highlighted links between repeated concussions and depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, among other debilitating effects. Having one concussion increases the likelihood of future incidents, and concussion effects also vary from athlete to athlete, making it difficult to determine a specific timetable for full recovery.
The NFL has taken the most notable steps toward preventing long-term concussion-related damage by implementing a series of required tests an athlete must pass before he can return to the field of play. MLB is also exploring changes to its injury procedures to accommodate for concussions and concussion-related symptoms, which have caused players to miss anywhere from a couple of games to an entire season.
Like most overarching issues within competitive athletics, concussions are not only dealt with at the professional level, but in collegiate athletics as well and subsequently at the high school level. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) promote safety by adopting rules to help diagnose and prevent further effects when a student-athlete sustains a head injury. The NFHS estimates that more than 140,000 high school student-athletes suffer at least one concussion each year.
The LHSAA abides by the concussion rules established by the NFHS, and they are posted on our Website at www.lhsaa.org, along with a Parent’s Guide to Concussions in Sports which details symptoms and safety procedures. The association also relies on the expertise of our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to keep our student-athletes safe and prevent any long-term effects from injuries sustained in the field of play.
Kenny Henderson is executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA).