The Real Dangers of Putting Concussed Athletes Back in the Game

2013-11-12T16:27:37-05:00Health & Safety, Protecting Your Kids|

Accidents can and do happen in youth sports. Scrapped knees and elbows, bruises, sprained ankles; even with the best laid safety measures kids can get hurt if they are playing hard and fast. And oftentimes these accidents aren’t really anyone’s “fault”; they are just an unfortunate side effect of playing sports. But sometimes someone is clearly in the wrong and when dealing with a concussed athlete the person who let that player back into the game before they were medically cleared is responsible for happens to that player.

In the last few weeks we are said to say that we’ve heard about two different stories where a concussed football player was severely injured, and in one case died, because their coaches didn’t take them out of the game or provide them with proper medical treatment after their injury. These stories break our hearts because they didn’t have to end the way they did.The Real Dangers of Putting Concussed Athletes Back in the Game

An Idaho high school football player was sent back into the game by his coaches just a few minutes after being injured on the field.

Sandpoint attorneys Todd Reed and Margaret Williams allege in the suit that Bobby Clark was briefly removed from the game, but put back into play by unidentified coaches. Approximately two plays later, he returned to the sidelines and collapsed…The plaintiffs contend the school district staff didn’t comply with Idaho high school requirements for evaluating head injuries and negligently put him back into the game.

And a Frostburg State football player ultimately died after being injured in practice.

…the family sued the NCAA, Frostburg State head coach Tom Rogish, running backs coach Jamie Schumacher, trainer Michael Schweitzer Jr. and helmet maker Schutt Sports in Montgomery County Circuit Court. The lawsuit claimed that what happened during the August morning on Frostburg State’s football field wasn’t accidental. It claimed staffers missed opportunity after opportunity to treat Derek’s head injury over three days

In the case of the Frostburg State football player, allegations have emerged that one of the coaches taunted the young man after he reported his headaches.

These two stories break our hearts, but they also make us very angry. In the last few years the amount of information available about concussions and the effect of things like second-impact syndrome as grown exponentially. So too has diagnostic testing and treatment options for concussed players. There is no way these football coaches could have been unaware of the dangers associated with putting these two players back on the field. Just because a player isn’t unconscious that doesn’t mean they don’t have a concussion! High school and college level football coaches aren’t parent volunteers with little safety knowledge or training. They should be, and are required by law in the case of the Idaho football player, aware of the symptoms of concussions and know when to pull a player from the field.

The fact that the college player went to his coaches with concerns and his fears were dismissed is inexcusable. Yes, football (especially at the college and professional level) has a reputation for being a “man’s game” and men don’t admit when they are hurting, but for a football player who was never known to complain to come to his coach worried about his health should be a clear indication that something is wrong. To just dismiss him the way his coaches allegedly did is unbelievable.

Concussions are much more serious sports injuries than something like a sprained ankle. As far as we know, most youth athletes don’t die of a sprained ankle, but they can die because of a concussion that isn’t handled properly. The football coaches in these two cases put these young men in harm’s way because they didn’t do their due diligence when it came to concussion safety. Maybe we can’t prevent concussions 100%, especially in full-contact sports like football, but we can change the way we as a sports culture react to concussed players. And we need to do so before more young players are seriously injured or even killed.

A foundation was created in honor of Derek Sheely, the Frostburg State football player. Learn more about the Derek Sheely Foundation at