Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A Law About Concussions?

Seems like the urge to legislate cannot be overcome.  But the Legislature should look very carefully at writing laws which attempt to remedy a deficiency of common sense--or which exculpate bad decisions.

Concussion survivors, medical professionals and the head of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association on Tuesday strongly urged passage of a bill that would develop guidelines on the risk of head injuries and set rules for handling young athletes hurt on the field of play.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, would require new guidelines to educate coaches, athletes and their parents about the risk of concussion and head injury in youth athletic activities. Experts say the number of traumatic brain injuries among young people is on the rise.

So happens that I'm well-aware of the situation with concussion injuries.  The WIAA's website includes a densely-packed page covering the topic; concussion injuries have been hot for at least the last two years in athletic circles, and deservedly so. 

Concussions are serious business. 

But legislating "education" and "rules" on the topic?

I think that's a bit much.  Some questions:

Why doesn't WIAA establish its own guidelines and enforce them?  There's no reason for the State to "force" WIAA to do what's right in the first place, is there?  If WIAA isn't competent--or is reluctant--then WIAA could be restructured.  A new set of officers or Board members might send the message.

This will prospectively establish liability claims.  There are a lot of events which happen on the basketball, football, hockey, soccer, and rugby fields which may or may not result in concussions.  There are between 10 and 35 people running around out there, getting hit.  Worse, concussions are largely self-reported--or not--by the players.  So if a player doesn't report that they have suffered a concussion, what's a coach to do?  Who's responsible for that?  (By the way, are players capable of diagnosing their own concussions?)

If there is a law,  you can bet your last dollar that some P.I. lawyer will be suing somebody.  The school?  The coach?  Both?

Can Wisconsin "legislate" common sense?  Coaches and players should be proactive with regard to injuries (if they know there are injuries.)  That's common sense.  If there's a coach who lacks common sense, that's a matter for the school (or club) to resolve.  If a player lacks common sense, it's a matter for the coach to resolve.  Legislation enshrining 'guidelines' cannot fix a lack of common sense.

One suspects that WIAA is looking to the Legislature to provide a safe haven for WIAA and its athletic directors, coaches, and school district constituents.  "Give us a law, we'll follow the law, then we can't be blamed."

The Legislature should politely tell WIAA to keep it own house in order.


GOR said...

Yes Dad, as Voltaire noted: “Common sense is not so common” or as someone else put it: “Where stupidity will suffice, why look for other reasons?” It seems like a CYA effort on the part of people who are refusing to take responsibility for their actions – or lack thereof…

Often when the star player gets a concussion and the game is on the line, coaches, parents and the kid himself want him back in the game. There’s an excuse for the kid, as he doesn’t realize the danger. There’s none for the adults who allow this to happen. But no one wants to be the ‘bad guy’ and insist on doing what is right for the health of the youngster. We are too concerned about winning at all costs.

Dad29 said...

We are too concerned about winning at all costs.

That's exactly why WIAA wants 'excuse-legislation.'

Tim Morrissey said...

It's well past time for the WIAA to be radically reformed. (Radical = radix = root.)

Dad29 said...

For Latin AND the call for reform, you get an "A"!!

I still don't know why that's the Legislature's business, though.