The Herald Bulletin

February 12, 2014

Editorial: Concussion bill well intentioned but shortsighted

The Herald Bulletin

---- — The Indiana Senate has approved a bill that is aimed at providing protection for high school football players regarding concussions.

On the surface this seems like a good idea and many might be hard-pressed to come up with a down side to its passage into law. Nearly everyone has been exposed to horror stories about the aftereffects of concussions in football at all levels of competition. It is enough to scare any rational people into having second thoughts about whether they would like to see athletes they care about exposed to those risks.

So this bill establishes at least a 24-hour period during which a student suspected of having a concussion would not be permitted to play while an evaluation is made as to the extent of such an injury. It also would require high school football coaches and assistant coaches to receive training in player safety and head injuries.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with what this bill does. Yet much of it is already being done.

According to the Indiana High School Athletic Association and commissioner Bobby Cox, most of what is set forth in this bill already exists in that organization’s regulations.

So why put it into law? That’s a reasonable question and it is even more reasonable when examining what this bill does not do. Of course, an argument could be made that the force of law might make coaches more likely to adhere to what is already mandated by the IHSAA. But the problem is that the bill leaves uncovered areas of concern that are really disturbing.

The bill covers only high school sports. So anyone dealing with Pee Wee or even junior high football wouldn’t be obliged to follow the letter of this law. They already are outside the jurisdiction of the IHSAA, which only governs high school activity. Who is watching out for the younger players?

The bill also falls short in the area of protection for athletes in other sports. There is no doubt that football leaves athletes open to the widest risk. But when emergency departments report about 55,000 traumatic brain injuries each year related to football, they also report 29,167 related to girls soccer. That’s over half as many as football. Are those risks unimportant?

Girls soccer is just one example of where this bill falls short of covering the waterfront, so to speak. Boys soccer, volleyball, softball and baseball are also high-risk athletic activities. Where is the concern for the welfare of those athletes?

The idea of this bill is commendable as far as it goes. It just doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Summary The bill passed by the Indiana Senate to set ground rules for treatment and diagnosis of sports-related concussions is far from ground breaking.