From the professional and college levels to local youth leagues, preventing concussions is becoming a familiar topic. John Power now knows many of the tell-tale signs of concussions when it comes to protecting his athlete son.
“There is some training in the coach’s handbook like ‘what’s your name, when’s your birthday, count to ten,' you know, there’s just cognitive tests. Can you look to the right, look to the left? And it’s if the athlete can’t remember their name or their phone number or can’t count to ten, you know there’s simple things like that,” Power said.
What’s more, youth leagues have also made official rule changes to protect young children. Soccer, which has been cited as one of the biggest sports associated with concussions, recently saw a fundamental rule change at the youth recreational level. In 2015, the U.S Soccer Federation instituted a new rule.
“Now children age 10 [who play soccer] and under will be prohibited from headers, with other restrictions for older kids," the rule states.
Amherst resident Jessica Rudnik ultimately let her 9-year-old son Thatcher play contact Pee-Wee football for the Amherst Hurricanes.
But she had reservations.
“He’s always wanted to play,” she said. “He’s a big fan of football, and I said no for a long time.”
“I couldn't believe that second graders were playing, and he wanted to play and both my husband and I were like, ‘ehhhh.’ So we asked people about it, we have a couple friends who are doctors,” Rudnik said.
Rudnik said those friends told her that at 8 and 9 years old, the children can’t hit hard enough to do significant damage. They let Thatcher play. But they’re not sure they’ll continue to allow him to play football once he gets to the more advanced and physical levels.
College athletes and the NCAA
There were more than 460,000 NCAA student athletes in 2013, according to ESPN. Further, there are 21.5 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 who participated in sports around the country that year, ESPN said.
That's a lot of people to be responsible for, and professional athletic organizations are publicly confronting the issue of concussions by changing the rules.
Athletes, coaches and officials at these levels observe the efforts made to prevent hits and other activities that could potentially cause concussions, which results in the scope of the game being altered and preventive measures being put in place to protect athletes at all levels more than ever.
According to UMass cheerleader Brittany Ratté, the efforts of the UMass Amherst Athletic Department to communicate the dangers of concussions with the UMass Amherst cheerleading team have heightened as recently as 2016.
“I think they’re being so much more cautious about it now, especially here at UMass,” Ratté said. “This is the first year that we had one of the trainers come in and actually talk to us at the beginning of the season about concussions and tell us like signs of them and whether they can be so minor that you don’t even know you have them.”