Never have the risks of head injury associated with playing competitive sports at any level been so clear and transparent.
Never has the need for more stringent concussion care guidelines and better education for coaches, parents and athletes been more necessary.
The Idaho High School Activities Association, the body responsible for governing interscholastic sports in the state, released the results of its first concussion survey earlier this month.
Its findings were startling.
Based on the reporting of just 68 (of about 152) schools, the IHSAA found that 445 student-athletes missed practice time or games because of a potential or confirmed concussion this fall.
This fall. In just six sports football, girls soccer, boys soccer, volleyball, girls cross country and boys cross country.
There were more than 4 concussions per football team. More than one concussion per girls soccer team.
If you extrapolate the numbers to cover the entire state and I want to know why every school did not participate in this important survey then more than 1,000 student-athletes in the state suffered a concussion this fall alone.
Those numbers should set off alarm bells, particularly as we learn about the dangerous impacts of concussions and repeated concussions on young, developing brains.
This is not a column calling for the end of sports. Not even the end of football, though I have called for eliminating kickoffs to make the game safer, and I have wondered how long parents will allow their sons to play the sport as they discover the damage it can inflict upon their childrens brains. I have also questioned if football will follow the path of boxing.
This is a column calling for coaches to get more training on concussion symptoms, calling for parents to not question toughness when a child complains about a concussion, for athletes to balance the short-term and the long-term.
Getting your bell rung or being dinged is not something to shake off. It is an injury to your brain.
A knee can be repaired. A brain must heal.
And its not just a problem at the high school level.
Boise State guard Jeff Elorriaga is sidelined indefinitely after suffering two concussions in a week. He missed one game with the first concussion, then returned to the lineup and suffered another blow to the head when he hit the floor. Elorriaga had passed all of the tests, coach Leon Rice said. But now its hard not to wonder whether the Broncos glue guy and the nations No. 5 3-point shooter returned to action too quickly.
It was a concussion that sidelined San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith in November. Colin Kaepernick took over Smiths position and has led San Francisco to the Super Bowl. Smith took the proper precautions and now is a backup.
Do you think other professional players arent aware of his fate?
Or are they aware of the fates of hundreds, maybe thousands, of former NFL players, the ones who are now dealing with the implications of sustained head trauma? Many of them are suing the league, including the family of former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide at 43 last year and was recently found to have brain disease consistent with repeated brain trauma.
Hopefully the important research being conducted on the subject will lead to breakthroughs in treating concussions and early detection of brain disease. Hopefully it will lead to improved equipment, necessary rule changes and better training.
The IHSAA survey is a great step in the right direction, an acknowledgement that concussions are a serious problem in high school athletics and should be treated as such.
Concussion ignorance should no longer be an excuse for coaches, parents or athletes.