Monday marks the official start of the high school sports fall season.
Young men clad in pads and helmets will be taking the field in the heat for football practice, and young women will work on their serves inside stuffy gyms with little ventilation.
Fall season will see student-athletes around Douglas County compete in football, volleyball, cross country, soccer and obstacle course racing.
Football and girls soccer are two of three sports that see the most concussions when it comes to youth sports.
About 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Coaches, the Oregon School Activities Association and the Oregon Legislature are all looking out for the developing brains of the middle and high school students by writing and upholding strict concussion protocols.
OSAA states that “any athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion following an observed or suspected blow to the head or body, or who has been diagnosed with a concussion, shall not be permitted to return to that athletic contest or practice, or any other athletic contest or practice on that same day.”
The Legislature has established a rule that no player shall return to play following a concussion on the same day and the athlete must be cleared by an appropriate health care professional before he or she is allowed to return to play or practice.
We encourage parents, community members and coaches at all other levels to do the same.
The teens on the gridiron, court, field or course are student-athletes. The student part should always be more important than the athlete, because — sorry to burst your bubble — the majority of these athletes will not become the next Tom Brady or Allie Long.
Protecting their brains means protecting their future, because concussions are a traumatic brain injury. Continuing to play with a concussion, or returning to play too soon, will increase the chance of another concussion. When you get a concussion while the brain is still healing from its first injury, the results can affect you for a lifetime. It can even be fatal.
If a brain gets repeatedly injured while it is still developing, it can lead to serious repercussions as student-athletes age.
Researchers from Boston University released a study that found 90 percent of football players, including 110 of 111 NFL players, had developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is a syndrome characterized by abnormal brain changes that may accompany changes in thinking, mood and behavior.
Currently the research is progressing and a diagnosis can only be made after death. A direct link has not been found between concussions and CTE, but most of the players in the study came from an era where they were told to “walk it off, or we’ll find someone else.”
That is not the practice at high schools around the county, as coaches are trained to know the symptoms of a concussion and are mandated to err on the side of caution.
Hopefully these protections will ensure these student-athletes have bright futures and are able to look back on their high school days with fond memories.