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Bill Addresses Head Injuries in Young Athletes

Athletes have traditionally tried to play through injury, but a bill in the Missouri House might put an end to that. KSMU’s Justin Lux takes a look at what that would mean for high school sports.

The long term effects of head injuries in high school athletes has become a growing concern in society. Representative Don Calloway of St. Louis has introduced a bill that would call for any high school athlete who suffers a head injury to go through a series of tests before being cleared to return to practice.

The bill would also require athletes and their families to be educated on the effects that these injuries have on young people.

"What we have seen with brain injuries is a concussion is a mild brain injury and that there is 140,000 concussion brain injuries each year and it takes longer for a younger brain to recover," says Maureen Cunningham, the executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Missouri.

One doctor who sees head injuries in young athletes on a regular basis is Dr. Brian Mahaffey, director of St. John’s Sports Medicine. He says his office works closely with high school coaches and trainers, as well as administrators and parents to educate them.

"Most kids recovering from a concussion are able to return to activities very well, but unfortunately some of them have some long-term side effects that could last a couple of weeks to a couple of months," says Dr. Mahaffey.

Mahaffey says a bill like Calloway’s is a step in the right direction, but he says it’s important that those making the diagnosis are updated on the latest research and the symptoms of brain injuries. Mahaffey says although many head injuries come from football, he also sees a lot from basketball and women’s soccer.

One coach who’s seen his share of head injuries is Camdenton head football coach, Bob Shore. He’s been coaching for forty years.

"I certainly don't have any problem with the bill. We wouldn't even have any desire to play a young man at all until he was cleared. Safety is our top priority so I don't have any problems with that," says Shore.

Symptoms of a concussion in young people include tiring easily, irritability, changes in eating or sleeping patterns and a loss of balance. The Brain Injury Association of America says that those between the ages of fifteen and nineteen are at the highest risk of experiencing traumatic brain injury.

For KSMU news, I’m Justin Lux.