While concussions at the collegiate and professional levels receive the most attention, the problem is still present in lower tiers of competition.
In a recent letter to the Spokesman-Review, Pullman orthopedic specialist Dr. Edwin Tingstad wrote that a team of researchers has “been able to show that the forces in our young football and soccer players often approach or exceed those seen at the collegiate level.”
“The immature brain responds differently than the nervous system of an adult and often takes much longer to recover,” Tingstad said.
Because of this, Tingstad suggests there is a right time to start kids in contact sports.
“(It) depends on which contact sport,” Tingstad said. “Football not until age 14, others tailored to the kid and the sport.”
While the NCAA decides how they should define contact, Tingstad said he defines it as anything where one person can contact another.
With the abundance of research available, definitions and measures of prevention and reaction can be ambiguous.
To help clarify, Tingstad said there would be a concussion seminar on September 14 at Pullman Regional Hospital.
Megan Vining, recreation supervisor with the Pullman Parks and Recreation Department, said they educate their coaches before they begin working. Coaches must attend a three night training session in which concussions are covered.
Vining said parents and registered children also receive a manual with a fact sheet describing what a concussion is, how to recognize symptoms and what to do if their child is suspected of having one.
However, Vining said they have yet to experience any concussions in programs offered by Parks and Recreation.
“All the verbiage and material that I have read says that all the kids in our programs who are kindergarten through fifth grade aren’t taking super hard shots to the head,” Vining said. “There is lots research saying that they aren’t taking enough to cause concussions, and fortunately, we have not experienced any concussions on our end.”
Parks and Recreation offers multiple sports activities including basketball, volleyball, tennis, t-ball and flag football.
These activities would fall under Tingstad’s definition of contact and his suggestion of tailored participation.
Bill Drake, assistant athletic director for athletic training at WSU, said parents should know that concussions happen in sports other than football.
“(Their) son or daughter plays sport X, they are still at risk of a concussion,” said Drake. “Just like any other sports, we still need to get that concussion cared for right and as thorough as any other.”
The Lystedt Law, which was passed in 2009 in the state of Washington, requires high school and younger athletes suspected of having a concussion to be authorized by a physician before returning to athletic activities.
The law was named after Zackery Lystedt, a 13-year-old boy who was nearly killed in 2006 due to reentering a football game after he suffered a concussion.
Efforts made by Lystedt’s family and Dr. Stanley Herring at the University of Washington paved the way for youth concussion legislations across the country. Forty-eight states have now enacted youth concussion legislation.