It’s a choice between safety and stigma.
Concussions in sports have been in the news a lot lately.
The warrior culture of professional football is worshiped, yet former players suffer early onset dementia and other fallout from blows to the head.
This summer, we saw World Cup soccer players get knocked out cold, then fight with trainers to return to the field.
Those aren’t the best examples to set for young athletes in Clark County.
That’s why a pilot program between Clark County Youth Football and Kaiser Permanente is so refreshing and valuable.
This weekend and the first two weekends in August, CCYF players are required to undergo a free baseline imPACT concussion screening at Kaiser’s Cascade Park Medical Office.
With a baseline in hand, a player who suffers a concussion can return for a free follow-up screening. That helps stop a player from returning to action too soon after a concussion.
But medical tests are only part of the program, which aims to screen about 1,000 local athletes ranging from fourth to eighth grade.
The best medicine might be encouragement for youths to be honest when they’ve been hurt.
“We have to get rid of the macho World War II mentality,” CCYF President Terry Hyde said. “To get a young person to be honest about their feelings, we need to convince them that there’s a lot of football, baseball or soccer in front of them if they take care of themselves.”
The program is the brainchild of Dr. Dave Griffin. He said it’s not just the athlete who contributes to “a culture of resistance.”
“Sometimes there’s a coach that may not want to take a player out because maybe he’s their best player,” Griffin said. “Then there’s the parent who might be overbearing and think their kid is the next NFL star. It creates this whole environment that makes it harder for recognition. The most recent mantra is ‘when in doubt, sit it out.’ “
Griffin got the idea for the program when his teenage son suffered a concussion while playing soccer for a club team. The high school his son attends, La Salle Prep in Oregon, had its athletes undergo an imPACT baseline screening earlier that year.
“It was nice that high schools have something like that,” Griffin said. “But I began to wonder about the sports clubs younger than high school.”
Griffin is a podiatrist and not an expert on traumatic brain injuries, but he hoped to tap the resources at Kaiser to put his proposal into action. He found a willing partner in Clark County Youth Football.
On the football side of the project, coaches will be instructed on better tackling techniques and their overall approach to player safety.
“It begins and ends with coaches,” Hyde said. “It’s up to them to stop the drill and say ‘everybody come on, let’s revisit this.’ “
Coaches can instruct. Scientists can study. States can pass laws requiring concussion protocol.
It’s all muted if stigma causes athletes to hide their symptoms or return to action too quickly.
Instead of looking to pro athletes to be role models, Clark County Youth Football and Kaiser have smartly taken this issue into their own hands.
Let’s hope the program encourages the dialogue and education that allows impressionable youths to take a stand against a stigma.