From a lawsuit against the National Football League involving more than 4,000 players, to a new state law in Maine which governs when high school athletes can return to the field, the topic is sparking a lot of debate.
After high school freshman Cam Murphy was knocked to the ground in a soccer game last fall, it was weeks before doctors realized Murphy had suffered a serious concussion.
“I just got up and walked away. I didn’t realize it was that bad,” said Murphy. This spring he is reluctantly taking a break from sports. “It’s not very fun. I’d rather play than watch,” said Murphy. Murphy’s mother said the doctor told them he could face some serious consequences if he didn’t take that break. “The doctor told us if he went back playing and he got hit again, it could be for the rest of his life that he couldn’t play sports,” said Anna Bragdon.
That’s the message concussion advocate Scott Manthorne, of Yarmouth, is advocating. “I don’t think it needs to overshadow what sports are all about, but I think every coach, every parent should slow down, take some time to understand what this is,” said Manthorne.
Manthorne admits he is not expert on concussions but is a concerned parent working to ensure the highest degree of safety in youth sports. In the past six months he has created a Facebook page, the “Concussion Discussion.” He has organized a public forum and has formed an alliance with sports medicine specialist Dr. Kevin Bardwell to better promote testing.
“We are working on return to play protocols. We’re working to increase awareness,” said Manthorne.
Bardwell said taking a simple baseline test can detect the slightest sign of irregular brain function. Many concussion experts suggest young athletes take the test before they begin playing a sport to provide their doctor a foundation of their brain function.
“What this can do is pick up the fine details, the motor skills that are effected when we take away different senses,” said Bardwell.
The debate over concussions has many parents wondering if their young child should participate in contact sports.
“I think there are far too many games,” said youth sports coach Mike Hagarty.
Hagarty believes concerned families should practice moderation and not eliminate sports entirely.
However, no matter how many games they play, it is up to the coach, the kids and the parents to recognize the symptoms. “Anything we can do to increase awareness, to increase measurement, to increase education and to let people know from the neck up there’s no such thing as a minor injury,” said Hagarty.
This year Maine became one of 39 states to enact a law governing concussions in high school sports. Every high school must have a concussion policy to determine when a player can return to the field or classroom. Dr. Bardwell and others want communities to set similar policies for youth sports.
Video Coverage can be seen here: Special Report: Concussion Conversation