The debate is making its way through the North Carolina state legislature.
House Bill 116 was "intended to raise awareness of life-threatening
sports injuries by having parents, coaches and volunteers sign a concussion
information sheet and keeping a database when those injuries occur,"
The News & Observer reported this week.
But the bill gives parents and legal guardians "equal standing as
physicians and athletic trainers as to whether athletes can re-enter games
or be eligible to play or practice the following day after they have been
Sounds reasonable, right?
Not so fast.
"This may be an example of people, perhaps with well-meaning intentions
but not considering some of the potential unintended consequences of something
like this," said Williams.
One state legislator said the language giving parents the power to determine
whether or not their child is healthy enough to return to their sport
should be removed from the bill. Rep. Greg Murphy, a Pitt County Republican
who is a physician and supporter of the measure, told The News & Observer
that the language will be eliminated. An updated version of the bill stating
that only medical professionals can make the determination as to whether
a child can go back into a game will move forward.
Vernon Williams, M.D., a neurologist and director of the Kerlan-Jobe Center
for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine in Los Angeles, along with countless
colleagues across the country, couldn't agree more with the revision.
"My initial reaction is that this may be an example of people, perhaps
with well-meaning intentions but not considering some of the potential
unintended consequences of something like this," said Williams.
Parents, he told LifeZette, may be able to provide some helpful information
about how their child is doing to the health care professionals involved:
Is the child still exhibiting signs or symptoms of concussive injury?
Is he or she having trouble falling asleep or complaining of headaches
or losing focus? This information is important in assessing a child's recovery.
But more often than not, kids will minimize their symptoms, especially
to parents — because they want to return to play. There are often
incentives for them to return to the game, of course — and if parents
are given a say or even an
equal say, it could be a disaster.
"We've seen in some cases parents who are very aggressive with
respect to their desire for their kid to return to play," said Williams.
"But we've always been able to say, 'No, this is a medical
decision' — and the final responsibility has been from the physician
or licensed health care professional. And that's the way it should be."
He added that he's not aware of any other scenario or state where the
decision regarding return to play can be made by a parent.
"Typically the buck stops somewhere, and that decision is made by
a physician under the best of circumstances — a physician who is
skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of concussion," said Williams.
"There are laws in every state now that require some kind of licensed
health care professional to be involved in that decision, not just a coach."