Pennsylvania’s brand-new Safety in Youth Sports Act aims to help adults respond better to sports-related head injuries in middle school and high school athletes – so that a kid’s brain can fully recover. As Inquirer writer Kathy Boccella noted in this story on Monday, the law is a response to an alarming rise in reported traumatic brain injuries in high school and middle school sports.
The act requires that athletes suspected of suffering a concussion be removed from play right away and bars them from returning until cleared by a physician. It penalizes coaches who don't follow the rules, requires yearly training in concussions for high school coaches, while parents must sign an information sheet on brain injuries. And it requires that schools grant kids the crucial downtime their little gray cells need for recovery.
I asked Christina Master, M.D., an attending physician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) whose work includes caring for kids and teens with concussions at the hospital’s Sports Medicine and Performance Center. I wanted to know why brain rest is so important – and so challenging for kids and their families – after a concussion.
“The focus after a concussion in an athlete has been the question 'When can they return to play?' but for kids and teens the real focus needs to be 'When can they return to learning?,' she says. “It takes physical and cognitive rest for the brain to recover after a concussion. Kids don’t want to take time off from school and sports, especially with so much pressure on high achievement these days. But rest is actually the quickest way to get back to the activities they want to be doing.”