A new study is raising serious questions about the state of youth athletics across North America. It appears that although coaches and doctors are effective at pulling players from the field when they are concussed, or suspected to have a concussion, they are returning them too soon to play.
The recent death of an American 17-year-old football player highlighted this problem. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that case of Kenny Bui. He suffered a concussion during a game, and tow weeks later his doctor cleared him to return to play. His coaches administered a cognitive test which he passed and he was returned to play.
In the next and last game he ever played, Kenny was tackled and lost consciousness during a game. He was rushed to hospital and died three days later.
The preliminary findings of the largest ever study of concussion suggest that even though athletes can pass a battery of screening tests their brains may not be healed. It is accepted fact that after the first concussion, subsequent concussions come easier and have worse effects. The new study of over 28,000 concussions of college athletes and army/navy/air force cadets has highlighted the fact that advanced brain scans may be required to allow athletes to return to play.
There appears to be a time lag between the diagnostic testing (ability to pass cognitive tests) and biological results (has the brain healed). The research indicates that the biological healing takes significantly longer that the clinical signs indicate though the cognitive tests. This is key as the brain is especially vulnerable to injury following an initial trauma. The risk of significant injury or death increase greatly in that time period.