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West Virginia schools need better safeguards against brain injury

Most West Virginia schools have an athletic program. Friday night high school football games are a draw not only for parents and students, but for local supporters. When people are watching the game, they are focused on the plays and the score. They are probably not worrying too much about the players suffering brain injuries.

West Virginia parents with students that play football are likely aware that their child could suffer concussions as a result of playing the game. They are not uncommon. The question becomes what precautions the school is taking to ensure that concussions are reported and that there is adequate medical care available on the sidelines in case of injury on the field. And the issue isn't limited to the gridiron. Concussions can happen in any sport.

There are those who are pushing for better legislation to protect students who suffer from concussions while playing all high school sports. Right now, doctors who volunteer to serve at school games are held liable under their malpractice insurance. The school holds no official liability. Coaches are trained to recognize the signs of a concussion, but don't always pull players out of the game. Sometimes, parents are worse than the coaches and insist that their child be put back in the game.

What has become clear in recent years is that repeated hits to the head while playing high school sports such as football and soccer may eventually lead to debilitating brain injuries. Many parents seek to encourage their schools to keep better track of concussions and otherwise safeguard their children while on the field. If the school won't listen, parents may feel the need to turn to the courts as a vehicle of change when injuries result from the claimed negligence of others. After all, ultimately, it's about the safety of the kids, not a championship trophy.

Source: The State Journal, "Concussion problems plague student athletics," Ann Ali, Sept. 10, 2012

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