Concussion protection for young athletes - CBS46 News

Concussion protection for young athletes: Is Georgia falling behind?

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Each year half a million kids suffer from a concussion in the United States. If not treated immediately and properly, it can lead to a more serious condition, and even brain damage.

Almost every state in the country has a law in place to protect young athletes, but not Georgia. After failing last year, another bill will go before the legislature next session. It's a bill Shaun Davis and her son Courtney are paying attention to.

"You just got to have heart and just be focused," Courtney Davis said.

Courtney Davis loves football. The Columbia High School quarterback started playing when he was 10 years old. The more he played, the more he loved it. The more he played, the tougher the game became.

"Middle school I took hard hits, hard hits. Middle school, that's when I actually had my concussion," Courtney Davis said.

Courtney Davis was at a NFL Football Academy when the lights went out.

"All I remember is me getting hit real hard, my head hit the turf. I don't remember what happened after that. I blacked out and my vision was blurred," Courtney Davis said.

His mom, Shaun Davis, didn't see the hit. What she did see frightened her.

"Courtney was unconscious. He was on the field. Paramedics were over him working on him. His eyes had rolled back in his head so I thought my child was dead," Shaun Davis said.

The worry that Shaun Davis always kept in the back of her mind, leapt to the front.

"I was in absolute shock. No one contacted me to tell me this injury had occurred," Shaun Davis said.

Renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu is the author of Concussions and Our Kids. He says Shaun Davis and every parent of a young athlete have reason to be concerned.

"Youngsters are more prone to concussions. Their brains are not milonated, their heads are disproportionately big, their necks are weaker. All of this sets them up for the given amount of brain trauma being more injurious to the brain than it would to an adult," Cantu said.

State Rep. Billy Mitchell wants more protection for kids. He introduced a bill last legislative session which would create a uniform policy of what should happen when a youth player, in any sport, is suspected of suffering a concussion.

"This was something whose time has come. We looked at what I call the Georgia Return to Play Act, which would establish a protocol, if you will, as to when an athlete suspected of receiving a concussion when they're able to return," Mitchell said.

Under the proposal, coaches, players and parents must be educated about the dangers of concussions. And a player must sit out if suspected of having a concussion and before returning to play they must be medically cleared. The bill went nowhere despite the pleas of current and former Falcons.

"I can remember after one play, getting up, seeing the sky was a shade of yellow. And there were green dots. I didn't know I had a concussion at that time," kicker Matt Bryant said.

Washington State was the first to pass a tough youth Return to Play law. But it took a tragedy to get action. In 2006, Zachery Lystedt, then 13 years old, suffered a concussion during a middle school football game. Lystedt went back into the game after just a few plays. He later collapsed, and suffered a life-threatening brain injury.

That led to Lystedt's Law. Since being passed in 2009, most of the country has adopted the law or something similar.

"I think it's good for kids playing youth sports, all of sports," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.

Earlier this year, Goodell NCAA president Mark Emmert sent a letter to the states without a law, including a letter to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, urging them to pass similar legislation.

"It's important for them to be educated on concussions and also very important for them to understand to pull themselves out of the game to be properly evaluated before they go back in. This is something we've pledged to do in all 50 states, we're 40 plus D.C.," said Goodell.

Georgia is one of only six states without a law pending.

"Georgia doesn't want to be behind when it comes to protecting our student athletes," Mitchell said.

"I think that this is very critical, very crucial because if not, we're going to lose a lot of players," Shaun Davis said.

Courtney Davis admits at his age, many players don't think about head trauma, but believes they should.

"I think it's important to be taken out of the game, because if you take a second hit to the head, something bad could happen. You could get brain damage," Courtney Davis said.

The Georgia High School Association requires each school district have a concussion policy. Currently there is nothing on the books for the middle school level or club sports.

CBS Atlanta News requested an interview with Deal for this story and asked if he would support such a bill. His staff said he does not comment on any legislation that is not on his agenda.

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