Indiana To Mandate Concussion-Awareness Training
By Gretchen Frazee
States are implementing laws aimed at preventing concussions in sports. Indiana may become the first state to mandate concussion-awareness training for high school and youth football coaches.
At a high school fall football practice in Bloomington, Indiana, players are tackling each other - their helmets clashing together on contact.
The problem is with those helmet to helmet collisions. While they can shut down a big play they can also hurt young athletes. Many doctors and coaches say the repeated blows can cause concussions.
“I like to play with my head", said senior football defensive end Hugh Jackson, who said after several hard hits at pratice last year, he wasn't feeling quite right. "“I noticed I started to get dizzy and my teammates noticed my eyes were wandering and everything.”
After another hit, he blacked out, and a trainer sent him to the hospital. He had a concussion.
Indiana lawmakers say coaches need to better understand concussion symptoms and how to prevent concussions. That’s why Indiana will mandate concussion-awareness training for all high school and youth football coaches—teaching them everything from tackling techniques to proper uniform fitting.
"I think it’s all designed as an educational piece to bring awareness to show that he’s not dinged like it was back when I was in school - someone got their bell rung or got dinged," said Scott Bless, Jackson's football coach.
He joins the chorus of lawmakers and parents supporting the idea, but he’s concerned that it might not be embraced by the relatively small pool of people who volunteer to coach.
“Especially at the youth level where those coaches are all volunteer coaches," Bless said. "Is that going to be a stumbling block that makes it tougher to find youth coaches? You know many of those coaches are coming straight from a job, hustling to get there.”
Jennifer Phelps is with USA Football, the national governing body for youth football based in Indianapolis. She said her group doesn’t want to scare off volunteer coaches either, so it’s created a short training course that fits Indiana’s new requirements.
“The cost for youth football is about 5 dollars and about an hour and a half of your time and that is such a low entry so that you have the tools and you have the tools in a safe and effective way," she said.
Henry Feuer is a retired neurosurgeon and NFL consultant. He said there are bigger medical issues with the proposal.
First, the mandate only applies to football.
"Just to say football when it’s happening in several other sports on a regular basis is just missing the point," he said.
Those sports include soccer, basketball, hockey and lacrosse and while studies have shown football has the highest rate of concussions, other sports aren’t far behind.
Feuer also said schools and sports organizations are expecting coaches to take on responsibilities that should be handled by doctors.
“What does he do when he gets to the sideline with that kid when he pulls that kid out of the game, then what happens?," he said.
Feuer is viewing Indiana’s proposal as a good first step—and something he hopes other states will build on in their efforts to keep kids from getting concussions.