OUR OPINION: With concussions, 'common sense' isn't enough
"Sorry, but do we truly need a law for something that should just be common sense?" That was the comment by a Bismarck Tribune reader on a story about concussions and youth sports. A bill being debated by the North Dakota Legislature would requir...
"Sorry, but do we truly need a law for something that should just be common sense?"
That was the comment by a Bismarck Tribune reader on a story about concussions and youth sports. A bill being debated by the North Dakota Legislature would require coaches to bench athletes who are suspected of having suffered a concussion.
"The written approval of a physician would be required before a concussed athlete could return to practice or competition," the story notes.
As state Sen. Spencer Berry, R-Fargo and a physician who is sponsoring the bill, says in the story, "When in doubt, sit them out."
All well and good. But what about the reader's question?
What about common sense?
The answer is that in the case of concussions and youth sports, common sense isn't enough.
Make that, common sense isn't enough to cover the whole population of young athletes and participants in youth sports. It might be enough to prompt well-informed coaches, parents and athletes to take proper notice of concussions. But nowhere near every coach, parent and player is well informed --- and given the nature of concussions, large numbers may never be.
That's because the symptoms of concussions so often are masked. Why have concussions surfaced only recently as a major concern in the NFL, even though football players have violently tackled each other for decades? Because brain-scan technology only recently made clear how many NFL players had suffered brain injuries. The scans show that even when a concussed athlete appears to have recovered, serious brain injuries may remain -- and those injuries can be aggravated if the player quickly suffers another hit.
Here's another thing: Recovering from concussions isn't like recovering from other injuries. For some sports injuries, exercise is part of the cure. An athlete who gets knee surgery will need intensive physical therapy, part of which will involve progressive exercise to strengthen the muscles and joint.
But recovering from concussions is different. What the injured brain needs is not exercise but rest, clinicians say. That's contrary to the "common sense" view and is one more reason why parents, coaches and athletes shouldn't be expected to handle this issue entirely on their own.
In other words, taking proper care of concussions typically requires medical intervention and advice. Large numbers of parents would seek that out on their own; but not all parents would. (Likewise, not all college and professional athletes would get treatment on their own, which is why the NFL, the NCAA and other groups are tightening their own rules.)
And when it comes to concussions, failing to seek proper medical care can lead to dire results. The absence of strict rules (such as those being proposed in Bismarck) leads to too many athletes being seriously hurt, and that's too high of a price to pay.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald