Fortunately, while minor injuries occur just about every week in East County sports, local teams have not experienced similar tragedies. And recently proposed state legislation could help keep it that way.
AB 1646 would add training on concussions, neck injuries, asthma attacks, heatstroke and other potentially catastrophic injuries to the CPR and first aid certification required of all California high school coaches. AB 1647 would require medical clearance from a health professional before a student could return to play following a serious sports injury such as a concussion.
Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, who represents far East County, said at a recent press conference that she has personal reasons for becoming a cosponsor of the Assembly bills. “(My oldest) son had a brain tumor in July of 2007, went through six surgeries, almost 60 days in the hospital,” she said. “It wasn’t related to his many years in sports. But I got to see firsthand through that whole process the impact of brain injury on individuals and on families. So this measure is welcomed. All we can do to prevent brain trauma we should be doing.”
Buchanan added in a posting on her Web site: “Over 40 percent of high school players return to play too early after experiencing a head injury, placing them at risk for another concussion and for related health problems such as sleep disorders, memory loss and depression. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that the incidence of catastrophic head injuries, including brain bleeding and swelling, is more than three times greater among high school football players than college players. Oregon, Texas, and Washington have already enacted similar laws to protect high school athletes.”
In the last academic year, 18 youth athletes in California died, according to the California Athletic Trainers’ Association. They are among 125 youth athlete deaths nationwide along with 40 life-altering injuries suffered by middle and high school athletes.
AB 1647 would also require that a defibrillator – $1,200-$1,600 per unit – be available at sporting events, further burdening cash-strapped local sports budgets. Currently Freedom High is one of the few schools in the area with an on-site defibrillator available to restart a heart in the event of cardiac arrest at a game.
“If the laws go through as they stand, it’s going to create some new challenges,” said Freedom Athletic Director Steve Amaro, referring to added costs to school sports budgets. “That’s not to say they shouldn’t be there, because safety is the most important thing. It would be nice if there were (government) financing to get everybody up to speed on that. The defibrillator should be important enough to be mandatory for all schools.”