Changing The Conversation: How treatment of concussions has changed in youth sports

(Fox 17 News)

The NFL reported more concussions in 2017 than any other year since they started sharing such data in 2012. Experts attribute that to a league more cautious in diagnosing head injuries.

Concussion has become the buzzword in athletics, and the focus on head injuries has changed the way youth and high school sports handle such issues.

Emeka Nnadi, trainer at Nashville's Montgomery Bell Academy, describes a transformed system in which trainers, coaches and athletes throughout youth sports are all on the same page in reporting concussions and exercising appropriate patience in waiting for symptoms to subside.

"Typically, with concussion situations, it's been around for a few years so everyone knows what to look for now," said Nnadi. Diagnosing symptoms is relatively simple: follow my finger with your eyes, shrug your shoulders up, smile, bite down, swallow, stick your tongue out."

Those simple tests allow medical professionals to tell if a certain part of the brain is struggling to respond.

The added emphasis on head injuries are not meant to scare parents and athletes, keeping them from participating. Dr. Andrew Gregory from Vanderbilt Sports Medicine says the most important factor to him is not the number of concussions one has sustained.

"If it goes on for months, that's somebody I'm worried about," Gregory said. "To me, it's not the number, it's how easy does it happen and how long do symptoms last."

Washington was the first state to pass a law mandating how schools must respond to concussions. In Tennessee, the TSSAA now has a 19 page manual discussing guidelines and protocol for concussions.

"The TSSAAA is asking the administration of every member school to meet with their coaching staff and review this policy prior to the beginning of every sports season," the manual reads. "Failure to do so is not an option. Our student-athletes' safety must come first."

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