In 2011, Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit from Steelers linebacker James Harrison. After sitting out two plays, McCoy jogged back onto the field and threw an end-zone interception that pretty much ended the game in the Steelers' favor. McCoy doesn't remember any of it because he was suffering from a concussion.
Today, after scores of stories like this, every player in the NFL who's diagnosed with a concussion must follow a five-step process before being cleared to practice or participate in an NFL game.
Those accidents and new guidelines helped raise awareness of the risks of concussions to elementary, high school and college athletes as well. One important study of nine high school sports found that almost 9 percent of injuries were concussions. That adds up: Another study says high school athletes sustain around 300,000 concussions annually.
A Return to Play law for school and intramural sports programs is in force in all 50 states. If your son or daughter is playing a contact sport, make sure his or her sports program follows the protocol for "removal and clearance for return to play." Advocate the use of improved screening technology.
There's a new, virtual-reality eye-tracking platform cleared by the Food and Drug Administration that provides objective measurements in 60 seconds to aid in the assessment of concussion. Emerging technologies include sensors in helmets and mouthguards that measure the severity of a blow to the head. We'd love to see these used at every high school, college and pro game! They could be game-changers.
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