For young people between the age of 15 to 24, sports are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says sports concussions have reached an “epidemic level”. NET Radio’s Roger Bartlett talked with Nebraska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Joann Schaefer about Nebraska’s new “Concussion Awareness Law” which took effect in July. Among the requirements of the law, schools and sports organizations have to make available concussion training and follow rules about when an athlete suspected of having a concussion can return to play.
Dr. Joann Schaefer, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services: A concussion is an injury to the brain. It causes a temporary pause in the brain’s activity, but you might not realize that so the symptoms can be everything from a mild confusion, gosh I don’t feel like myself to lights out and you’re unconscious for a little bit and then you wake up and you have some more symptoms like sensitivity to sound, nausea, vomiting, pretty profound symptoms that everyone recognizes that you really got a clunk on the head.
Roger Bartlett, NET Radio: So in a nutshell, what does the Nebraska Concussion Awareness Law http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/concussion/Pages/Home.aspx do?
Bartlett: How do you determine that an athlete is OK to play?
Dr. Schaefer: That’s why we have the curriculum out there that’s been approved, that’s on the website. It’s free and all of the coaches and athletic trainers and everybody can take this curriculum, the parents are even welcome to view it and look at it, but the health professionals are the ones who need to evaluate the kids. The licensed health professionals, they are the ones with the training that can tell you when the kiddo is able to return to play. But the symptoms that everyone needs to watch for are, like I reviewed in the beginning, sensitivity to sound, sensitivity to light, confusion, emotional irritability, inability to focus, double or blurry vision. Obviously anyone who has been conked on the head and appears dazed or stunned or is vomiting, those are serious signs and they need to be evaluated immediately. But it’s some of those subtle signs maybe the next in class, you know they got knocked on the head and then the next day in class they’re really struggling to focus, those the things we really want parents to pay attention to and realize that that can very well be related to the knock on the head they got the day before and they need to be evaluated and they shouldn’t go to practice that day and just assume that it’s safe to return to play. We want kids to be out there and active. One of the biggest issues I have is that kids are not active enough and they’re getting too much screen time. We have an enormous problem with obesity and overweight in children, so I want kids active, but we need to do it safely. We know more about concussion now than we ever have before, so this is a good systematic approach to making sure that we’re keeping our kids safe and it’s now state law.