Sometimes when a game is on the line, the temptation to push that player is always there. Even when a coach senses that his or her player is hurt, when the player says he or she can go, that coach is faced with the tough decision of rather to send the player back out there or whether he or she needs to sit the player out.
The biggest injury that has been on the minds of everybody has been concussions. With the recent reports of NFL players suffering long term damaging effects to the brain such as memory loss and brain damage and the lawsuit the players filed against the league, it’s been a hot topic. It’s becoming a huge concern among high school athletes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any where between 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur during athletics on an average each year.
On Jan. 9, the state of Mississippi moved one step closer to having a legislation for concussions in youth sports in place as the Mississippi House of Representatives voted 116-1 to approve a bill titled the “Mississippi Youth Concussion Law.”
The law will apply to all boys and girls sports in the Mississippi High School Activities Association and the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools for grades 7-12. If Mississippi is able to get the legislations approved by the Senate, it would mean all the states in the country would have some form of law regarding concussions in place.
The bill would make sure any athlete that shows signs of concussion would be evaluated by a licensed physician with experience in sports medicine. The player would have to sit out practice and games until all the signs of concussions are gone. There would also be an education course on concussions available for people and parents or guardians would have to receive and sign a concussion policy before the start of the regular school athletic season.
Even though the law hasn’t been passed yet, the Mississippi High School Activities Association and the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools have put rules in place that coaches have to go by to insure the safety of players. Both organizations also follow the guidelines set by the National Federation of High School Association.
Les Triplett, who is the MAIS Director of Activities and Athletics, said he is for the bill.
“We are always supportive of anything that improves safety,” “We would never be against something that focuses on the safety of the kid. Most of what’s in that bill either through our bylaws or the national federation is already being done and has been done. We’ve actually already voted to step up ours a little bit and require the parent aid and education, so it kind of fell into place for us.”
Sheldon Hodge, John F. Kennedy athletic director and head football coach, said the Mississippi High School Activities Association has done a good job at setting rules and regulations in place for coaches to follow that would make life easier if the law is put in place.
“The biggest thing is the foresight that Don Hinton and his staff had,” Hodge said. Because although they’re waiting for the legislation to be passed, in the public schools, we’re a year into that,” Hodge said. “We have to sign concussion waivers and forms as a part of our eligibility. I have to commend them on their foresight for that. I think the transition, if it comes into law, would be an easy transition.”
According to Hodge, the chances that a player will suffer a concussion playing football, even if he hasn’t been diagnosed with it, are great.
“I think the typical football player, if you start playing in the pee-wee leagues and you play through middle school, junior high and go on through to college, somewhere down that line you’re going to have that experience,” Hodge said. “I’ve had it. I was diagnosed once, but once I learned more about it there were some other occasions where I’m pretty sure I was concussed.”
West Bolivar head football coach Joac Williams cares about the safety of all the players participating in athletics. Williams, however, doesn’t want the law to hinder the player’s desire to play contact sports.
“We do need education on prevention and treatment, but I just hope that it doesn’t discourage school districts, parents and kids from participating in athletics,” Williams said. “There are already some things that contact sports already have in place right now, such as precautionary measures like reconditioning of the helmets and good proper tackling techniques. The education is needed, but I hope it doesn’t discourage parents and kids and school districts from actually participating in those contact sports.”
Football isn’t just the only sport where concussions can occur. Concussions can occur in any contact sport such as basketball, soccer, baseball, softball and many others. According to the Sports Concussion Institute, some studies reveal that girls are twice as likely to suffer a concussion than boys.
Earlier this year, Bayou point guard Taylor Ann Bailey had to miss some games due to a concussion she suffered while competing on the basketball court.
Bayou girls basketball head coach Dave Granville said he paid close attention to what the doctor said when it came to working with Bailey.
“She had certain guidelines that Dr. (Charles) Brock set up based on what the safety aspects were,” Granville said. “That includes when she could go back to having any light exercises, when she could begin a full practice and when she was eligible to play. We had to abide by those. I don’t have any time for anybody that wants to rush an athlete to play if it’s going to put her at any risk.”
Granville, who is also the headmaster at Bayou, feels the more people learn about concussions the better off everyone involved will be. He feels that as long as the law benefits the athlete first, it can help things tremendously.
Rather the law ends up getting past or not, Granville said coaches and administration still have an obligation to keep their student-athletes safe.
“From my take, when Dr. Brock gave me these guideline and this is the way to be safe, whether there is a law or not we all have a moral responsibility,” Granville said. “I would never want any of my coaches or staff to put my kids at risk for the chance to have a victory, ever. We won’t do that.”
Leroy Cotton, who is the athletic director and head boys and girls basketball coach at East Side High School, agrees with the intent of the concussion law and has always had safety as a number one priority for his student-athletes.
“Ultimately, the most important thing is whatever we do we’re going to safeguard our students and be in the best interest of our students,” Cotton said. “Even as it may cause a kid to be out for an extended period of time, if it’s in the best interest of the kid long term, there’s no doubt and no wavering from us as an athletic program at East Side High School. We’re going to always do what’s best for the student-athlete.”
Cotton said the Mississippi High School Activities Association has done a great job as far as putting things in place to protect student-athletes from injury, including concussions.
“I think the MHSAA has been very pro-active instead of reactive as far as concussions are concerned,” Cotton said. “I just left a meeting and there’s going to be even more guidelines at the high school activities association that are going to be put in place to protect our student-athletes. They’ve been ahead of the curb as far as legislation is concerned.”
Jimmy Hicks, Bayou Academy athletic director and head football coach, is in support of the bill and feels it can be beneficial.
“I think it’s a good law,” Hicks said. “When you’re dealing with concussions, it’s a whole different ball game than if you were dealing with the hand or the ankle. When you deal with the head, it’s extremely serious. The more you learn about it and the more you education yourself about it and the more awareness you can have, it’s just going to benefit us all. Our kids are the most important part.”
Steve Wies, who is the Cleveland High School athletic director, boys and girls head soccer and head baseball coach, agrees with a law being in place.
“I think it’s a long time coming,” Wies said. “Through the years, there’s no telling how many athletes received concussions and didn’t know it simply because there was not enough education about it back then and that’s in all sports on all levels. I think it’s a step in the right direction, trying to put the health and safety of the athletes at the forefront.”
To view the “Mississippi Youth Concussion Law”, go to www.legislature.ms.gov and look up House Bill No. 48.