David Goldstein Op Ed -Sports-related brain injuries can be avoided – Miami Herald


March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month, and I am among the 140,000 high school athletes who suffer a sports-related concussion each year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Last year, I had a head-to-head collision with another soccer player. Although it was my third concussion playing soccer in four years, I didn’t realize the risks of playing on. This time, my head really hurt, even though I did not fall or lose consciousness. As badly as I felt, it was an important game, so I played on for my team.

For more than three months, I had constant headaches so painful that every day I had to sleep a couple of periods at the school nurse’s office. My doctors told me to never play soccer again, which was crushing.

I was depressed and unable to participate in regular social activities. Luckily, I eventually found help at the University of Miami’s and Miami Project to Cure Paralysis’ Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic.

My symptoms finally went away, and gradually I returned to the sport I love. Today, I am a smarter player and wear a rugby helmet. I know the signs of concussion, and what to do. But I learned the hard way, and it didn’t have to be that way.

Last month I visited our state Capitol to talk about my experience in hopes of helping other student athletes avoid concussions and the problems I faced. Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami and Rep. Ronald Renuart of Ponte Vedra Beach are sponsoring bills to protect young athletes (HB301, SB730).

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) would be required to adopt policies informing youth athletes and parents of the nature and risk of head injuries. Athletes also would need a parental consent form before practicing or competing. Players sustaining a suspected head injury would be immediately suspended from play until receiving clearance from a qualified medical professional.

The bill is supported by the Brain Injury Association of Florida, National Football League, FHSAA, and a statewide Sports Concussion Task Force of medical experts, athletic officials and health care providers. Florida would be the tenth state to pass this needed legislation.

Schools, coaches, parents and players must be educated on head injuries. More than 40 percent of high school athletes return to play before they are fully recovered.

Brain injury has been called the “silent epidemic” because so few people know what a serious health problem it is in this country.

Locally, public awareness is growing. Recently, all of the Miami-Dade public school athletic directors, trainers and PE teachers were trained on concussions. I am grateful to Cheryl Golden, Instructional Supervisor, and the Miami-Dade School Board for addressing the needs of our student athletes.

My schoolmates at Ransom Everglades raised donations so that the Kidz Neuroscience Center of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis can provide education and concussion support through ImPACT testing at the Miami-Dade County Public High Schools.

Please join me in contacting legislators to support the concussion legislation. It is part of the Brain Injury Association of Florida’s statewide Mind Your Brain Campaign . . . Because It Matters to raise public awareness about traumatic brain injury and sports concussion. The Association recently launched a comprehensive Resource & Support Center at www.byyourside.org with information on community-based services. If the center had been in place when I got hurt, my family and I might have found the expert help I needed a lot sooner.

I know first-hand that concussion education, prevention and treatment really do matter. It can mean the difference between staying out for just a game or being out of play forever with problems that affect your overall quality of life.

Let’s make sure that every youth athlete in Florida plays it safe — so we all will be winners.

David Goldstein, 16, is a sophomore at Ransom Everglades High School in Miami.

Source : Miami Herald

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