Awareness and understanding of traumatic brain injury is growing rapidly among the military and deployed soldiers, thousands of whose TBIs often go undiagnosed, and among National Football Laegue players, coaches, and fans, who have watched some of the NFL’s top players (Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, Clinton Portis, and DeSean Jackson) recently sustain concussions on the playing field. And in our neighborhoods, the number of young athletes of all levels who are sustaining frequent concussions is also on the rise. Reading the daily newspaper brings to light the urgency to develop new protocols for brain injuries in sports activities, including the need for better protective gear and a heightened awareness of the dangers of “concussion.” Almost every week we read that another young person has sustained a serious, if not life-threatening and even life-ending brain injury.
Albuquerque is centrally involved in this issue in many ways:
- At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing recently, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who has taken the lead in Congress to protect children from Brain Injury, highlighted three important points about sports concussions: 1. that they are often overlooked; 2. that concussions are a serious problem these days, even for young athletes; and 3. that sports equipment is often marketed as “anti-concussion” without sufficient proof.
- After sustaining a series of ten concussions, in 2009Alexis Ball, a former University of New Mexico soccer leading scorer in 2007 and 2008, recently urged members of Congress and the public to take concussions seriously. She said, “Most coaches and athletes do not truly understand the long-term ramifications of concussions.”
- The Albuquerque Public Schools have recently adopted a Concussion Awareness Program, a Concussion Management Protocol, and a set of Athletic Participation Requirements with a form that must be signed by all students (and parents) who wish to participate in sports and that includes a “Concussion Fact Sheet.”
- Glenn Ford, a consultant for those with brain injuries at Brain Alliance of New Mexico and elsewhere throughout New Mexico, recently told me this touching story:
“An E-mail from one of our ardent advocates– a mother, grandmother and ‘sports mom’ said: ‘We were at our grandson’s JV football game tonight when a close friend was laid out. I could tell by the way the athletic trainer was treating him that he had a concussion. At one point later in the game, the coach came by and asked if the kid could go back in. Of course the trainer made it clear that it wasn’t going to happen. I suppose that even without SB-1 (Senate Bill 1 – Protocols for Brain Injuries in School Activities) the trainer would have kept him out, but it’s so much easier when the protocol is so clear that there isn’t any argument from coaches, parents, anyone.”
“My heart skipped a beat as I read this E-mail,” said Glenn.“Wow! People are really paying attention to the importance for caring for our young athlete (and future adults) and are really making an impact!”
More than 31 states now have some form of protocol for Youth Athletics in place. Most cover all sporting events both within and outside of public school sanctioned activities. Some require a one day sit out period with mandatory physician examination and release to play again. New Mexico, thank God, requires a minimum of a one week symptom free period, monitoring, and a written release by a physician.
The lack of national standards for concussion management and protection of student athletes received attention this year after the introduction of Congressional bill H.R. 469: Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act of 2011., which was introduced by Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Tim Bishop (D-NY), that would finally set minimum state requirements for the prevention and treatment of concussions sutained in school sports and, especially in New Mexico,after the introduction to the New Mexico Legislature of Bill SB-1: Protocols for Brain Injuries in School Activities by State Senator Michael S. Sanchez.
Please Contact Your State Senator and U.S. Congressman!
Estimates for a legislative vote on these new bills are 2012, with implementation by 2014:
1. SB-1 (State Senate Bill 1) – Protocols for Brain Injuries in School Activities and
2. Congressional bill H.R. 469: Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act of 2011
(H.R. 469 would set, for the first time, minimum state require-ments for the prevention and treatment of concussions that happen during school sports.)
So please contact your U.S Representative to show your support for this Bill (click here), as well as your State Senator (click here).
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