Coaches might be required to learn about head injuries
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Coaches might be required to learn about head injuries

Date: March 2, 2011
By: Christi Warren
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 387 HB 300 HB 334

JEFFERSON CITY - When in doubt, sit them out.

The motto, which refers to 'benching' injured student athletes, was repeated throughout the hearing room as medical professionals and a representative from the Missouri State High School Activities Association testified in support of a series of bills heard by the House Committee on Health Care Policy during a public hearing Wednesday.

The three bills, sponsored by Rep. Zachary Wyatt, R-Green Castle, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, and Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger, R-Lake St. Louis, would make it a requirement for coaches, teachers and athletes to be educated about the symptoms and hazards of child brain injuries.  

To do this, they propose the school boards of each district work with the MSHSAA to create a training program to educate leaders of student athletes on the symptoms, risks and severity involved with head injury in children. 

In addition, the bills would require that coaches not allow an injured player to return to the field prior to an examination by a health professional, and also not before the culmination of rest period of a minimum of 24 hours following the injury.

Dr. Thomas Martin, president of the Board of Directors of the Brain Injuries Association of Missouri, supported other doctor's testimonies in emphasizing the importance of the coach's knowledge of the symptoms of brain trauma.

"We're talking about physical symptoms, nausea, headache," said Martin. "We're talking about cognitive symptoms: diminished speed of processing, diminished learning and memory. We're talking about changes in sensory functioning, balancing, coordination, vision and hearing. We're talking about changes in behavioral functioning: a lower tolerance for frustration, irritability."

A recent increase in concern over proper care for student athletes who sustain injuries to the head follows the Fall 2010 death of Kansas City high school football player, Nathan Stiles. The cause of death was a subdural hematoma, or the pooling of blood on the surface of the brain, following trauma to the tissue.

His death was caused by second impact syndrome -- what happens when athletes take the field prior to healing and sustain a second injury. 

The bills exist to prevent future cases such as Stiles'.

"These are our children. These are our future. Multiple brain injuries, multiple concussions -- they are not going to be able to function after two concussions," Wyatt said.

Dr. Robert Harris, a Columbia, Mo. pediatric physician said, "All I can say is, hallelujah."

No one spoke in opposition to the bill.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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