Concussion law changes highlight importance of education ahead of spring sports season

Posted at 9:19 AM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-28 09:19:18-05

When Michigan students return to athletics for the spring sports season, there will be a renewed interest on concussions.

Back in 2013, a concussion law went into effect that changed how athletes are to be handled when it comes to concussions — this year, an updated version of the law hits the books that requires more training for coaches and staff for schools, and recreational programs, that put children and teens on the playing field.

The new law requires adults involved in youth sports to complete an online concussion awareness training every three years. It also requires that once a young athlete is suspected to have sustained a concussion, or similar traumatic brain injury, that they not return to the field of play until they are medically cleared.

At Beaumont Health’s Royal Oak campus, a lot of work is going into working with students, teachers and coaches to make sure a base level of knowledge is out there.

“If you’re educated, that puts you in a better position,” said Lori Sheridan, an outreach coordinator for the Neuroscience Center. “If you know what to look for it helps. You need to listen and stay in-tune because (students) don’t always necessarily say something.”

Sheridan is one of the people who has been helping various sports teams in the area test athletes before a concussion ever happens. They perform a type of base-line testing students so that they have information about an individual’s typical cognitive functions. That helps doctors compare tests pre- and post-concussion to ensure they’re fully healed before returning to sports.

Concussions aren’t identical for everyone, and because of that all additional information is important. Last year, Beaumont Health was funded through grants from former Lions offensive linemen Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola to do pre-concussion cognitive tests on hundreds of athletes that take part in the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL). The testing extended into a number of school and recreational leagues, as well.

“There’s a lot of growth and development with the brain,” said Dr. Elizabeth Leleszi, a pediatric neurologist. “This is a very important time in a child’s life. We need to take these injuries seriously.”

Dr. Leleszi also stressed that parents don’t need to panic. While a lot of information that has come out in recent years can be scary, the doctor stressed that most prognosis are positive. However, caution is needed whenever a child or teen is suspected to have a head injury.

“I think the first rule with pediatrics is that parents are right 99-point-99 percent of the time,” said Dr. Leleszi.

In other words, if you’re concerned something is wrong with your child don’t fear a visit to the doctor.

Concussions are more common than the general population may realize. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, each year U.S. emergency departments treat more than 173,000 sports and recreation-related concussions among children and adolescents.