Governor Cuomo just signed a new law in New York to deal with concussions in youth sports.
Beginning July 1 of next year, New York’s new concussion law will require student athletes who may have sustained a concussion to be sidelined for at least 24 hours. The student will not be permitted to return to play until they have been symptom free for at least one day and have been checked and cleared by their doctor. The law also requires that coaches and teachers be educated and trained on the symptoms and treatment of concussions, which are actually mild traumatic brain injuries.
Governor Cuomo stated, “By raising awareness of the risks of mild traumatic brain injuries we are protecting students across New York … and will help enable student athletes who experience concussions [to] get prompt treatment, helping avoid the future health problems that often accompany such injuries.”
I recently attended a three day conference in New Orleans entitled “Legal Issues In Brain Injury,” conducted by the North American Brain Injury Society. There were over 30 faculty at the event that are on the forefront of the most up to date methods of diagnosing, testing and treating persons with Traumatic Brain Injuries as well as Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries, such as concussions. The main reason that I attended the conference was to gain the necessary knowledge to better understand what my clients with TBI were going through and how to properly document their injury so that I could be a stronger advocate for them in court.
However, some of the most interesting information I learned dealt with concussions in youth sports. A concussion occurs when a person sustains a mild blow to the head that causes shearing of brain cells. According to the experts who spoke on this topic, many kids are being allowed to go back to playing sports long before the effects of the concussion have resolved. Concussions take time to heal, and while the brain is recovering, the risk of a second concussion is greater. Moreover, if the child has not recovered from the initial concussion and then receives a second concussion, not only is the recovery period going to be longer, but the chances of permanent damage and future problems are increased.
Unfortunately, the full extent of the damage cannot be seen on a CT scan or typical MRI, which are the tests that are routinely given in an attempt to determine if the brain was damaged. These tests do not show minor TBI, and other tests may be necessary. These include an MRI with a stronger magnet, an fMRI (functional MRI), and DTI (Diffuse Tensor Imaging), among others.
The signs of concussion to look for are: the person appears dazed or stunned, is confused about assignment or position, forgets sports plays, is unsure of game score or opponent, moves clumsily, answers questions slowly, loses consciousness, behavior or personality changes, can’t recall events prior to hit or fall, can’t recall events after hit or fall.
The symptoms reported by the athlete are: headache or pressure in the head, nausea or vomiting, balance problems or dizziness, double or blurry vision, sensitivity to light or noise, feeling sluggish, hazy or foggy, concentration or memory problems, confusion or just doesn’t feel right.
The best course of action is to seek medical attention right away to determine how serious the concussion is and when it is safe to make a return to the sport. Stay out of play until a doctor clears the return. It’s better to miss a game or two, instead of an entire season.