SIMMONS: Concussion report stands as cautionary tale for parents

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Two, sometimes three evenings a week, just down the block from my home, the sounds of intermittently blown whistles pierce the air, followed by either cheering or booing for the littlest of the little ones playing football.

Similar sounds can be heard throughout the D.C. region and indeed across the country this time of year, as pee-wee leagues count down toward their respective playoff rounds.

They are good times, for sure, but they can be dangerous, too — an alarm sounded quite loudly Wednesday with the release of “Sports-Related Concussion in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture.”

The extensive report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council looked at several youth sports — from women’s basketball to men’s lacrosse — played by a broad range of ages — from 5 to 21 years old.

Some of the findings can readily be placed in the common sense category. For example that “reported concussions rates are more frequent among high school athletes than college athletes in some sports,” such as football.

Young people often think they are invincible; we always know they are not.

Yet other findings caution all adults to be more mindful of that old cheer, “Hit ‘em again, harder, harder.”

Particularly noteworthy were findings that concussion rates “appear higher for youths with a history of prior concussions and among female athletes” and that:

Women’s collegiate ice hockey has the highest rate of reported concussions.

Overall, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling and soccer are associated with the highest rates of reported concussions for boys and men who play in high school and college.

For girls and women, soccer, lacrosse and basketball are associated with the highest rates of reported concussions at the high school and college levels.

When it comes to 19-and-under youths, the reported number of individuals treated in emergency rooms for concussions and other non-fatal, sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries increased from 150,000 in 2001 to 250,000 in 2009.

Interestingly, that 2009 tally was long before the NFL tackled the New Orleans Saints for its illegitimate bounty fund, which paid players for clocking opponents (which used to be simply called “smash-mouth” football.)

The analysts also looked at military concussion instances as well, but I’m excluding them from this discussion because military personnel deal with extenuating circumstances that young athletes do not.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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