As parents and former coaches for our children’s sports teams, Don Corson and I know the importance of safety on the field. If your child plays sports, you know that kids can get hurt. Injuries like bruised shins or twisted ankles are painful but they heal and don’t stop kids from returning to their normal activities in time. Unfortunately, other injuries, especially brain injuries can be more serious. Thankfully, a law in Oregon has recently been passed to help prevent the long-lasting effects of head injuries.
As of January 1, 2014, Jenna’s Law (Oregon Senate Bill 721) requires sports leagues or non-school athletic teams to educate children over 12 and adults who are involved in their teams in recognizing and handling concussions.
Concussions Can Lead to Permanent Brain Injury
Jenna’s law is an extension of “Max’s Law”, a 2009 landmark concussion law requiring high school athletic coaches to receive concussion training. The namesakes of the laws, Max Conradt and Jenna Sneva, sustained received multiple concussions that led to lasting injuries.
Safety should be the first priority for any coach or parent, but brain injuries can be difficult to recognize. Further, studies have shown that the effects of sustaining a second concussion before the first is allowed to heal can lead to serious, long-term brain injury. Max Conradt sustained multiple concussions and now he must live in a long-term care facility for the rest of his life. While Max’s injury is not typical, his story shows us the importance of monitoring kids with concussions so more serious injuries are prevented.
Concussion Education and Protocols
To prevent another needless tragedy from happening, Jenna’s Law sets out specific requirements for leagues, youth sports coaches, parents and children participating in nonschool athletic teams. Leagues are required to develop concussion education material for coaches and parents. Coaches must take a free online concussion education course and follow certain protocols in the event that a concussion is suspected. These include:
- immediately taking the player out of the game,
- getting the player checked out by an appropriate medical professional, and
- not allowing that concussed player to return to play until he or she has been cleared by a medical professional.
For parents and children, a separate acknowledgement that they have taken and understand the online education concussion education must be signed each year the child participates in sports teams. If the child is 12 years or older, they may sign their own acknowledgement. This approach of including everyone involved with nonschool teams should go a long way to increase awareness of concussion dangers.
If you would like a good concussion information piece, the Center for Disease Control has developed a helpful flyer, Heads Up, which outlines signs and symptoms of athletic concussions. Even though Oregon law now has an official bill to protect child athletes, it’s up to parents and coaches to follow through. The best way to keep your children safe is to educate yourself about head injuries and how to prevent them.
Improperly secured movable soccer goals have long been recognized as a serious safety hazard. Numerous product safety organizations, state and national soccer associations, medical academies, and insurance companies long ago reached the same conclusion: Soccer goal posts must be secured at all times.
Nonetheless, sometime before September 17, 2011, an Oregon youth sports organization chose to disassemble heavy metal soccer goal posts and leave them next to playing fields at a middle school. The goal posts were left in an unsecured area that is fully accessible to children, and only yards away from a nearby soccer field. The organization chose to lean those heavy metal goal posts up against a batting cage. The metal posts were left tipped up against the fencing of the batting cage. There was no cable, chain, lock, or other device to prevent the goal posts from falling over; they were left there without being secured in any manner.
On that day, several little boys started playing next to the batting cage while their sisters played soccer. The mother of a 6-year-old boy saw that her son started to climb up on to a goal post, and told him to get off. He did so immediately, but the unsecured goal post fell on his head, causing a skull fracture that extended into the optic canal behind the child’s left eye. The little boy suffered complete blindness in that eye. We worked with experts in human factors, sports safety, and playground safety to prepare the liability case, and worked with medical experts on vision loss to prepare the damages case. The case eventually had a policy limits settlement for a confidential amount.