Missouri and Kansas Professional Licensing Attorney Describes Ethical Duties Of Medical Personnel Related To Concussions In Youth Sports

The recently released movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith as a retired professional football player whose life is destroyed because of traumatic brain injury from repeated concussions is a sad true-to-life story. The story told in “Concussion” is not an isolated incident. Many headlines are made these days from ex-football players such as Junior Seau, who committed suicide after his career, and Kevin Turner who succumbed to a disease similar to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”) in 2016 from suffering too many hits to the head. While football garners the bulk of the headlines related to head injuries, with good reason, other sports have similar concussion dangers. Soccer players, for instance, are at risk to suffer a concussion. So too are hockey players. Medical personnel in both Kansas and Missouri must follow the state-established protocols before a student-athlete returns to competition. Following the concussion rules will not guarantee the future safety of the athlete.  Consequently, subsequent injuries could lead to claims of misdiagnosis, malpractice, and ethical violations in some circumstances. Professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger is a zealous advocate for professional licensees and will fight to protect you from claims of ethical violations.

At the high school level, proper care and prevention start with awareness of the potential for injury. Gone are the days of dismissing a bump on the head as simply “getting your bell rung.” High school athletic trainers, who must be licensed in Kansas and Missouri, are the first line of intervention and treatment. Athletic trainers are always on the lookout for head injuries. Head injuries can be concealed and are not always obvious. Athletic trainers receive education on how to spot head injuries and what interventions are necessary. Appropriate responses include immediately removing a person from the game and commencing testing. The player may return to action if cleared by the trainer, if not, state-sanctioned concussion protocols take over.

Missouri has a seven-step program that an athlete must pass before returning to play. At the outset, a physician must sign a return to play form before playing again.  Each step of the seven must be completed before moving to the next step. First, the athlete must rest completely. That means no sports and no school or a reduced school schedule for a period that could last several days. The next step is returning to classes full time. Then, the student-athlete may begin light exercise. The athlete may not begin exercising until they are asymptomatic and a physician has authorized the student to do so. At this step, the student may walk or ride a bicycle with no exertion. The student may not begin lifting weights. Once that step is complete, then the student may begin running without equipment in the gym or on a track. After that, the athlete may participate in non-contact drills, followed by full practice. Assuming the student remains asymptomatic, then the athlete is allowed to return to play in a game.  The protocol advises that the student progress one step per day and not try to accelerate the process.

Unfortunately, following this protocol will not guarantee the player will remain healthy. Even one concussion can have serious effects going forward, and a clean bill of health based on diagnostic testing is no guarantee of safety. Therefore, doctors, athletic trainers, coaches, parents, and the student-athlete all bear the burden of making sure each player safely competes.

Consult With An Experienced Professional Licensing Attorney If You Have Questions About Potential Liability From Concussion Related Injuries

Kansas and Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger possesses vast experience in representing healthcare professionals. Call Attorney Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule a consultation to learn your rights and responsibilities if you are involved in evaluating or treating student-athletes for concussions.