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08/3/2015

How Parents Endanger Concussed Student-Athletes

Concussions & Sports–Legal & Ethical Review: Part 5
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In perhaps The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics report’s most frightening revelation about student-athlete concussions, interview subjects report that parents might be the most difficult obstacle to overcome in ensuring the health of their own children.8 “We’re finding that our biggest problem is the parents,” says one of the report’s interview subjects. “They want their kids to go back in before the coaches do.”

The authors note that several state agencies charged with implementing concussion safety regulations are “reporting a small, but persistent practice among some parents for ‘doctor-shopping,’ or visiting numerous physicians to find one who would certify their child could return to play.”

Sports Brain, an organization dedicated to fight sports-related concussions, shared several chilling stories of parents pressuring athletic trainers and coaches to let their children return to play too soon.11 These stories, say the site, demonstrate how there is a fundamental lack of understanding of the seriousness of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children. “A mother who was irate with her daughter’s high school coach and athletic trainer because they refused to allow her daughter to play a week after having surgery for a head injury which included a concussion.... It was the child’s third concussion in 2 years. The mother was irate because there were college scouts in attendance and she wanted her daughter to play.”

Another story from the site involves the child of a coach who was allowed to continue playing in a state championship football game, at the coach’s insistence, despite advice to the contrary by the athletic trainer and team doctor. He quickly suffered a second concussion that ended his career.

The epidemic of parental doctor shopping led to the release of a position statement by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in the summer of 2014, reminding doctors of the ethical obligation to educate and protect athletes from concussion.12 “If an athlete has suffered a concussion, doctors should ignore pressure from players, coaches or parents and give the athlete the go-ahead to resume playing only if he or she is medically ready.”

As with most aspects of sports concussion management, the key consideration seems to be the need for increased education, particularly among parents. “A national survey of 500 parents and coaches conducted by Nemours found that half of parents and some coaches didn’t know the steps to take after a child takes a hit to the head in a sports game,” noted Delaware Online.13



8Kerri McGowan Lowrey, J.D., M.P.H., and Stephanie R. Morain, Ph.D., M.P.H., “State Experiences Implementing Youth Sports Concussion Laws ,” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 42:3 (2014): 290 - 299.
11“Being A Parent – It’s a Big Job,” last modified January 18, 2014, http://www.sportsbrain.com/blog/parents-perspective-4/.
12“Doctors Need to Protect Athletes From Concussion Risk: Neurologists,” last modified July 9, 2014, http://healthcare.utah.edu/healthlibrary/related/doc.php?type=6&id=689497.
13“Study: Parents, coaches need schooling on concussions,” last modified April 6, 2015, http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/health/2015/04/06/study-parents....

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks


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