Youth sport safety challenged

The concerns over Ohio catastrophic injuries associated with professional football players suffering with a traumatic brain injury is relatively recent. But, this issue has also impacted children playing football across this country who may be facing the risk of brain damage.

In 2015, the mother of a 19-year-old who killed himself in 2012 became the first person to sue Pop Warner football concerning head safety. She charged that her son suffered from a brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by repeated hits to the head. Her son received many of these blows by playing eight years of tackle football beginning when he was 11-year-old at Wisconsin Pop Warner youth leagues.

The severity of CTEs and brain injuries caused by severe jolts to the head, concussions, have been a serious concern during the last 15 years even though their risk was known for decades.

CTE is a serious and often a disabling injury that a person suffers when an athlete receives a second concussion in addition to an existing one. A CTE may also be caused by repeated blows that are not a concussion.

CTE was diagnosed in many athletes who played football through high school. The more time playing increases the number of head blows and the risk of CTE. Head blows at younger ages was also shown to upset normal cognitive development. In a Boston University study, cognitive tests were performed on 214 former football players and those who played before they were 12 had double the chance of having trouble with their attention, memory and decision-making.

Many states and leagues are also imposing standards such as changing tackles and ending punts and kick-off returns. Some laws require pulling students from games who exhibit concussion symptoms and require a physician's clearance before they can play again.

Improved equipment fitting practices were imposed although research indicates helmets do little to stop concussions. Teams have lowered the number of hours of practice to lower the number of hits that players receive. Other proposed changes include elimination of all special team plays, decreasing field size to lower high impact hits and changing linemen stances to lower the intensity of hits.

Victims of these catastrophic injuries and their families can face large medical expenses and other losses. An attorney can help them obtain compensation when their injuries were caused by a school or team's negligence.

Source: Capital Times, "The future of football: How concerns about head injuries are changing youth sports," Erik Lorenzsonn, Nov. 9, 2017

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