Many young athletes are suffering damaging concussions in youth sports. The violent nature of some sports puts kids in harms way. Children that play violent sports, like football, are suffering severe concussions at an alarming rate. Many concussions go undiagnosed and unreported due to a lack of understanding and the macho attitude of coaches and players. Some coaches and players are too eager to get the player back into a game after the player has had his bell rung, when in fact the player has suffered a concussion. The fact of the matter is, as long as children play a game where they run into, over, thru, and around one another, some of them will suffer concussions. I m not demonizing sport but I want to look at what we can do to end as many concussions as possible in youth sports.
Attitudes That Lead to Concussions in Youth Sports
Youth sports offer many benefits but the threat of concussions is reason for serious concern. Ironically, attitudes play a role in the steps that lead up to concussions. The competitive nature of sports emphasizes doing whatever it takes to win. Players are encouraged to make sacrifices for the team, including playing hurt when possible. That kind of thinking is a part of the macho attitude in male sports where youre considered a warrior or a real man if you play through injuries.
Schools hold pep rallies to get their teams psyched up to go out and play hard. Thats not a bad thing especially when it comes to contact sports. If you dont play all out in contact sports it can be easier for you to get hurt. Some professional teams have well known pregame routines designed to bring out the most brutal part of players. But sometimes players get the wrong message from pep rallies and especially during rivalry games. The encouragement to play hard gets kicked up to another level during student body pep rallies. In a game like football, thats violent by nature, even cheerleaders used to chant Hit em again, hit em again. Harder! Harder! The sights and sounds of pep rallies, school pride, and testosterone combine to encourage players to literally sacrifice their minds and bodies as they hit one another with tremendous force.
These hits, or tackles, are collisions of young men that seem to get bigger, faster, and stronger with each generation. These young men and in some cases, young women are taught to punish the opponent as they tackle the opponent. In other words, try to inflict as much pain as possible. These mind games are another step that lead to concussions. There is no evil intent in pep rallies or coaching but the way the game is played makes serious injury inevitable. It will be nearly impossible to end concussions in youth sports but there are some things that can be done to help minimize the occurrences of concussions.
Start With Professional Athletes
To help end concussions in youth sports, we have to start at the top with professional sports. Young people who want to play like their idols idolize professional athletes. Unfortunately the National Football League experienced a scandal where players were accused of offering payments for knocking opponents out of games. The idea of knocking another player out of the game is not a new concept and it can be accomplished with a clean hit. There are always exceptions to every rule but the average professional football player isnt out to give another player a concussion. When professional players go out of the way to make it known that intentional blows to the head of another player are unacceptable, younger players will hear them and follow suit.
Equipment manufacturers are working to improve existing equipment to try to end concussions in youth sports. Even with the best equipment available, contact sports can lead to serious brain injuries because our bodies werent made for the punishment handed out during some athletic competitions. The extensive padding worn in a sport like football is indicative of how violent the sport is and how likely it is for players to experience concussions. Equipment manufacturers have a vested interest in making the best equipment possible to help prevent concussions. But helmets can only do so much to protect players. Parents, coaches, professional athletes, players, and equipment manufacturers all have a role to play in ending concussions in youth sports.
Coaches need to be better trained to recognize the symptoms of concussions. Coaches have their hands full doing everything it takes to manage a team but the health of the team has to come before anything else. Coaches are conflicted with teaching players to be as physical as possible without using their helmets as battering rams. This is known as spearing and ironically has injured tacklers as well as ball carriers being tackled. Spearing puts tacklers at great risk of neck injury and ball carriers can suffer concussions when being tackle helmet to helmet. Spearing is illegal but some coaches have been known to teach it. But if coaches were trained to recognize the symptoms of concussions and they trained their players to tackle properly, they could help end concussions in youth sports.
Girls Have Longer Recovery Time – WebMD
Parents and Concussions in Youth Sports
Parents want an end to concussions in youth sports more than anyone. Unfortunately, the desire to win often conflicts with safety. Parents can unwittingly put children in danger by encouraging children to play youth sports before the child is mentally and/or physically ready to play. Some of these children dont want to play and are only trying to please a parent. Some of them may never be ready to play a sport because their heart isnt in the game. No parent wants to see their child hurt but not understanding a child and athletic competition could lead to a severe injury such as a concussion.
Young Athletes Not Concerned About Concussions – WebMD
Concussions will probably be a part of the game as long as contact sports are played. But if attitudes, equipment, education, and training improve, children can be better protected from concussions. Changing the culture wont be easy but it is well worth trying. Yes, concussions will always be a threat but that doesnt mean we shouldnt try to end concussions in youth sports.