Listen: Keeping Kids Safe While Playing The Sports They Love


July 21, 2021

“Parents need to be educated about concussion. We cannot separate safety and participation and they have to be part of the same conversation. We want to make people more physically active, and we want to do it in the safest way possible.” Dr. Stan Herring of The Sports Institute at UW Medicine.

Safety and participation should go hand-in-hand when it comes to sports and exercise in general. In this episode of Brain Injury Today, BIAWA Executive Director Deborah Crawley speaks with Darin Harris and Dr. Stan Herring about why it’s important to keep kids active, while also avoiding preventable injuries by building a culture of safety.

Harris speaks from his perspective as a former UW football player who suffered a brain injury but continues to coach youth football. And Herring shares his insights as a leading sports medicine doctor who has helped pass state laws to make sports safer and continues to promote safety as the co-founder of the Sports Institute at UW Medicine.

According to Dr. Herring, it is harder for kids to understand that playing with a concussion is really a mistake. While you can be tough, no one has a tough brain. Education works sometimes, usually when a coach or administrator has an interest. Knowing that schools are rule-driven, Dr. Herring and colleagues realized that legislation should drive the mission to keep kids safe.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Washington, attorney Richard Adler of Adler Giersch, P.S., Dr. Herring, and the Lystedt family were an integral part of passing the Zackery Lystedt Law, the first in the nation concussion law.

Key Pieces of the Legislation

Parents, coaches and athletes need to be educated about concussion.

If a concussion is suspected, the athlete must be removed from play.

The athlete could not return to practice or play until there is written clearance from a licensed healthcare provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussion.

The Lystedt Law passed in Washington State in 2009 with unanimous consent. A bigger alliance formed and within four years concussion laws had been passed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. BIAWA also worked with the NFL to implement concussion protocols for professional football.

The law is an important first step, but does not preclude the importance of continued education and monitoring. Many of the nation’s Lystedt Laws have been expanded since their original passage as more is learned about concussions.

The laws create a safer place for kids to be engaged in any sport or activity. The importance of participating in sports and being a part of a team is very important for kids’ physical and mental health, but also teaches many life-long skills. Participation in team sports also improves self-esteem and social skills, as well as helps a student be more focused, learn faster, and perform better academically and reduces depression. There are a lot of upsides to participation in sports. But as Dr. Herring says this does not give a license to ignore safety.

Herring, Harris and Crawley discuss the impacts of inactivity (which is currently the fourth leading cause of death in the world), the importance of safety in participation, and how coaches help provide positive influences for athletes. According to Harris, it starts with learning to listen to your athletes.

Listen in to learn how parents can support their athlete and help set them up for a life-time of success.

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