Protecting Young Athletes through Hit Counts

The Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) has just released Hit Counts­, a report that advocates taking unprecedented steps to protect young athletes from concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

The report suggests that “the fastest and most effective path to safer youth sports is to regulate the amount of brain trauma that a child is allowed to incur in a season and a year.” A ‘hit count’ would look at the maximum number of hits per day, week, season and year. It would also mandate a period of rest after a minimum brain trauma exposure.

Undoubtedly, some will argue that this will lead to burdensome and unnecessary regulations – but consider the following:

  • Traumatic brain injuries can be devastating, impairing an individual’s cognitive and motor functions, as well as sensory and emotion. Children’s brains are not fully developed, and the risk of permanent brain damage from a serious injury is significant.
  • Technology that detects even relatively minor (or sub-concussive) brain injury has improved. We now know that young athletes who regularly take hits to the head could suffer a brain injury – even if they do not experience a concussion. CNN has an ongoing series on the tragic consequences of brain injuries in young athletes.
  • Several tragic deaths have resulted in the NFL planning an in-depth study on the long-term consequences of head injuries. We acknowledge the danger for adults, and seek to alleviate it; yet, no changes have been proposed to youth sports.

SLI’s proposes to have a Hit Count adopted by major youth sports organizations by 2013.  Let’s hope they succeed.

Read the full report and SLI’s white paper.