Are There Standard Rules for Concussion Safety Across All Ages and Levels?
Ironically, there are fewer rules and less education about sports concussions in youth sports than in the pros. Dr. Robert Cantu says standard guidelines should be mandated across the board.
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[Dr. Robert Cantu] Well I think clearly that a kid should have tremendous passion for playing a collision sport if he's going to play a collision sport. If a kid has equal passion for playing a sport that's not a collision sport, I would suggest that he might think about playing that other sport. But if you have great passion for playing football or ice hockey, lacrosse, I wouldn't say don't play it. I would say, in the case of football, start tackle football after the age of 14. In soccer, I'd say start heading the ball after the age of 14. And in ice hockey, the full-body checking is now up to age 13. It's almost at 14—essentially the same. It's totally backwards too in the sense that those at the top of the pyramid are not only getting the best medical attention, but they're doing the least amount of trauma. At the National Football League level, they're allowed to hit only 14 times in 18 weeks of the season. That's less than once a week. There's no such limitation in college football other than the Ivy League which lets you hit two times a week. There's no such limitation in high school football. There's no such limitation in youth football, although Pop Warner has cut back on the number of minutes of hitting in a practice. So unfortunately at the youth level is where the coaches, generally speaking, have the least amount of experience and the least amount of education, and that's unfortunate because there's not medical personnel at the youth level. So the coach, by de facto, becomes the medical personnel. So I believe that just like there are laws now in 49 states that mandate education for parents, for coaches, and for the athletes themselves on concussion symptoms and signs at the high school level, that should be mandated, I believe, at all levels that sports are played.
Posted on BrainLine August 30, 2013.
Robert Cantu, MD is chief of Neurosurgery Service, chairman Department of Surgery, and director of Sports Medicine, Emerson Hospital; clinical professor, Department of Neurosurgery, and co-director, Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, Boston University School of Medicine.
Produced by Noel Gunther and Erica Queen, BrainLine.