A concussion, which is an injury to the brain generally caused by a hard or blow to the head, has been well documented to leave lasting effects that can cause long term damage to the brain. Mississippi is currently the only state in the country that doesn’t have a law dealing with concussion.
Last week, the Mississippi House of Representatives approved a sports concussion bill cited as the “Mississippi Youth Concussion Law”, which was introduced by Pascagoula Senator Brice Wiggins. The law could be presented before the senate as soon as at the end of the week.
The law applies to athletics in the Mississippi High School Activities Association and Mississippi Association of Independent School for grades 7-12.
In the law, if any athlete shows signs of a concussion he must be removed from the game or practice immediately. The athlete must be evaluated by a licensed physician and can only return once he or she doesn’t have any more symptoms of a concussion and is cleared by the physician. It also enables people to learn more about concussions and the risk of concussions in youth sports through a concussion education course endorsed by the State Department of Heath. Parents or guardians shall receive and sign a concussion policy before the start of the school year.
Dr. Brent Smith, who is a physician at the Cleveland Medical Clinic, is in favor of the law and feels it will do a great deal as far as helping everyone involved protect athletes that suffer a concussion.
“The thing about the law and the physician that authored the original legislation in Washington, if you ask him, he’ll say the number one purpose of any of this is education,” Smith said. “To inform parents, athletes and coaches about what is a concussion. Where is the risk? Why is it a big deal? Why can we not take it lightly? Why are we going away from shake it off, it’s just a headache?
“The other parts are great add-ons as far making sure they stay out for 24 hours and making sure they get evaluated and cleared. If you did nothing else about it, it’s about getting the information in the hands of people that need to know it.”
Smith, who played high school football at Cleveland High, played football through out his youth. Smith said his knowledge of concussions started to come later in life. Smith was never diagnosed with a concussion during his playing days, but learning about concussions in medical school has him believing he did suffer a concussion at some point during his playing days looking back at symptoms he had at the time.
Having information on concussions available helps parents and especially the athletes know about the signs of concussions and how to treat them.
“If you start at age, which is when I did, and then you finish when you’re 18, that’s 14 years I played football and didn’t know what a concussion was until I was in medical school,” Smith said. “It’s a big deal, and it’s a very important part of why this needs to go through.”
In years past, if a player had some ringing in the ears from a hard hit and felt fine a few minutes later, he was put back in the game. If the players seemed fine after a play or time from being hit hard, he returned to action.
Smith said the education about what concussions can do down the road has made handling a concussion better for everybody involved, especially the coaches.
“The biggest improvement medically that we’ve had is understanding the long term consequences of concussions as far as what’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy and the depression and mood changes that you’re seeing in NFL players that played for 20 years,” Smith said. “The continual concussions and brain trauma have contributed to that.
“The important part of efforts on education of concussion awareness is when in doubt, sit out. Everyone of those impacts, even the ones we feel comfortable with and you put them back in, even those add up. Understanding of the long term consequences make that short term decision easier.”
According to Smith, concussions have many symptoms ranging from headaches and memory loss to mood swings and lack of sleep.
Smith said a parent or a coach has to do more than just look at one or two specific signs. A good relationship between the coaches, parents and athletes plays a pivotal role in treating a concussion.
“Everything involved in the brain can be a symptom of a concussion,” Smith said. “What it comes down to is if that kid is not himself, that’s where you have to know the athlete. That’s where it’s important to have a relationship with him or her. If you look at the parent and say is he himself or is they themselves and they say no, that’s a sign alone. That’s biggest sign that there’s something not right there.”
According Mississippi High School Activities Association Executive Director Don Hinton, steps have all ready been taken to treat concussions. All coaches are required to be certified in CPR and head coaches are required to complete the NFHS Course.
Hinton agrees with the information highlighted in the bill and is in favor of the bill being put into law.
“We hope to see the current bill submitted pass the house and the senate,” Hinton said.