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Editorial: Staying informed key in battle vs. concussions


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The Indiana University School of Medicine will help oversee a three-year concussion study being funded by the Indianapolis-based NCAA and the U.S. Defense Department.

The Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium will involve athletes from as many as 30 universities. It will be led by IU’s School of Medicine in collaboration with the University of Michigan and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Psychiatry Department chairman Thomas McAllister will lead the research project’s administrative and operations center at the IU School of Medicine.

Initially, data will be collected from about 7,200 athletes at 12 colleges, growing to about 37,000 athletes at 30 schools.

While most people associate concussions with football and hockey, those are not the only sports where they occur.

A study by researchers in Boston and Columbus, Ohio, showed there is a risk in several youth sports. The study found an incidence rate of 76.8 concussions per 1,000 participants in football and 61.9 in hockey.

But the researchers also found rates of 46.6 in boys lacrosse, 33 in girls soccer, 31 in girls lacrosse, about 24.9 in field hockey, 23.9 in wrestling, 21.2 in boys basketball, 19.2 in boys soccer and 18.6 in girls basketball.

For parents, there is a need for clear information about both the risks and treatment of concussion.

In an article last month, the Daily Journal focused on the experience of a middle school wrestler who sustained a concussion in practice. His recovery required an extended period of what doctors called “complete mental rest.” That included not even watching television or playing video games.

The IU study will add a needed complement to the study of youth sports. But statistics will carry us only so far. The research needs to be followed up with concrete recommendations that parents and coaches can put into practice to protect and treat young athletes.

Indiana has statewide standards on handling concussions in youth sports that spell out when a young player can return to competition. Football coaches are required to undergo training in concussion recognition.

Coaches at all levels and in all sports should be trained to recognize symptoms, so that youngsters can be pulled from the field or court as soon as possible.

Repeated concussions have a long-term negative effect on cognitive development. The more informed coaches and parents are, the better they will be able to weigh potential risks.

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