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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Let's use our heads for a change

A bar graph of the incidence of post-traumatic...Image via WikipediaThe endless wars we are waging against EastAsia and EurAsia, with their long-forgotten rationales, are at least having their one usual benefit: we're learning lots about the way the human body works, as we pile up casualties.

One area that our concussive wars are educating us about is head injuries and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). And one thing we're learning as a result is that high-school sports head injuries are much more serious than we thought. Anyone who has seen Ali or other "punch drunk" boxers staggering around has seen the evidence of what shocks to the head do.
“Two studies, one of veterans and the other of former professional football players, provide new evidence that head injuries such as concussions are linked to dementia later in life and may make the brain more vulnerable to the development of symptoms characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.”
We need to start applying this knowledge here, in Salem, right now. Every single sport, starting with football and soccer, needs to be examined for its concussion rates, and those sports with above-average concussion rates need to be critically assessed with an eye to answering this one question:
Can the concussions in this sport be eliminated entirely or drastically reduced, or shall the sport be dropped?
There is no middle ground. With the mounting evidence all pointing the same way (that concussions are far more serious than we used to think), we are now on notice that we are causing kids ages 13-18, kids who cannot give informed consent, lifelong injuries, all in the name of entertainment. We have a duty to respond to these studies and to act to limit concussions to the maximum extent that is reasonably possible. Given that there are plenty of team and individual sports that teach all the same life lessons, there is no excuse for allowing kids to be exposed to high risks of suffering lifelong injuries as part of their education.

If you pay taxes here, you need to tell the S-K School Board that you want to know what they are doing to prevent concussions right now, and how they are going to avoid the huge legal bills down the road, the kinds of bills that accrue whenever institutions try to ignore evidence that what they are doing harms kids.
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