TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Every year an estimated 140,000 high school athletes suffer concussions nationwide and too many of them are returning to play before they have recovered.
The Florida Legislature is moving to put tougher restrictions in place to prevent youth athletes from going back to their sport too soon because that can set them up for long-term brain troubles.
High school junior David Goldstein, who suffered three concussions playing soccer, is speaking in support of the bill along with the NFL and the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Goldstein sustained a serious concussion in a soccer game and he felt the effects for months: headaches, nausea, fatigue and depression. He returned to play too soon because he didn’t know any better, but now understands that was a big mistake.
“Even though I’d previously suffered two concussions I kept playing after my most recent concussion because I did not know the potentially devastating consequences of a second impact to my head. Second impact syndrome and multiple concussions can lead to permanent brain damage or even death.”
House bill sponsor Rep. Ronald Renuart, who’s also a doctor, says the human brain does not fully develop until people reach their late 20’s. He says injuries during the developmental years can impact a youth’s mood, social development and intelligence, and can limit someone’s potential.
He says for too long the issue of brain injuries has been treated too cavalierly.
“In the past, you’d get your bell rung, they’d drag you to the sidelines, they’d want to count some random fingers and you’re back in the game. Few realized how critical that situation was. Concussions, especially repeat concussions, can cause severe brain damage and in some cases can lead to death.”
The bill would require coaches to take an athlete out of a game or practice immediately following a head injury. The player could not return to competition until getting clearance from a doctor. The legislation would also apply to organized youth athletics at government-owned parks.
Parents and athletes would have to sign an informed consent form before they could play a sport.
“What this does is it informs our parents, it makes our youth sports safe again. Right now and for too long we have had that syndrome where you just say, ‘Shake it off. You’re fine. It’s just a bump on the head. Go ahead and get back in the game.’ Those days have to be over.”
The same bill died in the chaotic end to last year’s legislative session. Former Miami Dolphins receiver Nat Moore, now a V.P. with the Dolphins, is calling on lawmakers to finish the job this year.
“This legislation will help raise awareness and protect young athletes form the risk of concussions and other preventative brain injuries. For the kids’ sake, I urge lawmakers in this Senate to pass this legislation now and send it to the governor’s desk. We all know that the state of Florida is in the forefront of athletics and to not protect our resources is crazy.”
The Florida House has already passed the bill, but it’s waiting for final action in the Senate. Currently 31 states have passed similar laws that are intended to reduce concussions among youth athletes.
Written by: Dave Heller