Goldstein tried to do something about that. Last year, he organized a raffle at his school and wrote letters asking for cash until he had raised $35,000, which will be donated to the Miami-Dade school district. It will pay for three to four years of ImPACT tests for every public school in the county.

As more states enact concussion laws, medical professionals, athletic trainers, and school administrators wonder whether these laws actually are going to help prevent a condition that's inherently difficult to detect.

"I think the law comes up a little short," says Saint Louis University head athletic trainer Anthony Breitbach about Missouri's Interscholastic Youth Sports Brain Injury Prevention Act, "because a lot of these symptoms are subtle and can be easily concealed by the athlete if he or she wants to play." Additionally, Breitbach estimates that since only half of the state's schools can afford to employ an athletic trainer (which echoes a nationwide trend), a lot of concussions will continue to go undiagnosed, even with the new law in place.

Miami's David Goldstein spoke to the Florida legislators about devastating health problems that developed after he suffered multiple concussions. Despite his testimony, Florida killed a concussion bill for youth athletes.
Michael McElroy
Miami's David Goldstein spoke to the Florida legislators about devastating health problems that developed after he suffered multiple concussions. Despite his testimony, Florida killed a concussion bill for youth athletes.
Five years ago, former soccer player Natasha Helmick (left) once played a game half-blind after sustaining a concussion. Today, her mother, Micky, says that it takes her daughter three times as long to complete mental tasks.
Mark Graham
Five years ago, former soccer player Natasha Helmick (left) once played a game half-blind after sustaining a concussion. Today, her mother, Micky, says that it takes her daughter three times as long to complete mental tasks.

In Arizona, on the strength of Governor Jan Brewer's signature on House Bill 1521, the Mayo Clinic is offering free, online-based concussion tests to more than 100,000 high school athletes.

In June, the Mayo Clinic issued a press release stating that the Arizona Interscholastic Association had endorsed the baseline test, which was not true and caused an AIA attorney to threaten legal action. The two have since made up and are partnering to test all Arizona contact athletes during the 2011-2012 school year, starting with football.

Steve Hogen, athletic director of Mesa Public Schools, had concerns with Arizona's law even before it passed. According to him, if he and his cohorts hadn't been vocal about the bill's language (which was consequently amended), the law would have placed an impossible load on them.

"It put the burden on us that we had to make sure that all Pop Warner football kids were tested. That's impossible. We can't do that," says Hogen. "What if an out-of-state group had come in and they didn't have this concussion testing? We wouldn't have had the resources to check."

Because a legal precedent has yet to be established on these new laws, attorneys are divided on how potential lawsuits will play out in a courtroom.

Steven Pachman is a Philadelphia-based lawyer who has advised numerous academic institutions and athletic entities about concussion litigation. Though Pachman declines to comment about specific clients, a records search shows that he defended La Salle University in a lawsuit filed by the family of a former player. Preston Plevretes claimed that he had received severe brain damage because the school's nurse and a team trainer inserted him back into play too soon following a concussion. (La Salle settled out of court for $7.5 million.)

Pachman says he receives a call each week from advice-seeking youth and high school sports organizations, and "what I'm hearing from the defense perspective — 'We don't have a plan' and 'An athletic trainer is too expensive' — frightens me," says Pachman.

"Youth sports might suffer the most because of their lack of resources . . . A town of 80 people, like the one from Hoosiers, may not even think about potential litigation until something tragic happens," says Pachman.

Randall Scarlett of the San Francisco-based Scarlett Law Group admits that it's a "dismal state out there in terms of concussion protocols that coaches and others are to follow." However, Scarlett doesn't think there will be a deluge of lawsuits if and when the state's bill is approved. (California's concussion legislation has been in the works for the past two years, but, because of financial constraints, has not made it out of committee.)

"In California, you're not going to get litigation unless you get some pretty egregious facts because of the burden of proof and the lack of standards for non-physicians," he says.

Before concussion laws came into vogue, the mother of Demond Hunt Jr. took her son's coach and the local school district to task.

In 2008, Demond, a 16-year-old linebacker for East St. Louis (Illinois) High School, collapsed on the sideline during a game. A blood vessel had burst in his brain, which sent Hunt into multiple seizures and strokes.

Earlier in the game, Demond, according to the lawsuit, had complained of a concussion-like headache to his coach, who told him in so many words to suck it up and keep playing. Prosecuting attorney Michael McGlynn, who refused to comment in detail, says the case still is pending.

The parents of Zackery Lystedt of Seattle also filed suit on their son's behalf. Airlifted to a Seattle ER on life support, Lystedt had the top of his head completely removed by surgeons. He wasn't supposed to regain consciousness.

The milestones that have been reached since then have been both miraculous and frustratingly glacially paced. Nine months after the strokes, Lystedt resumed speaking. By 13 months, he moved his left arm. After 20 months, he could once again eat. Now, five years later, Lystedt, age 18, can walk a few steps with a cane. "You get a little bit back, you want a little bit more," says Victor Lystedt of his son's progress. "You never get satisfied, because you had it all before."

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10 comments
days out for kids
days out for kids

Wally do not ever gets whatever what is the news is during things. He's got designate is acceptable. Asphalt. What i mean discourage start! Speculation the guy would will need to care about having a concussion should the guy tried athletic? Heh.

Amber Murray
Amber Murray

Your websites terrible! Loading issues won't let me read the article.

Doug Bittle
Doug Bittle

Walter never sees what the news is in anything. He's name is appropriate. Concrete. As in block head! Guess he wouldn't have to worry about getting a concussion if he played sports? Heh

SLA
SLA

I had a concussion when I was 5 from being thrown from a horse. Will it be illegal to ride hroses as a kid too? I probably had a harder time than everyone else in a lot of subjects too, but I was never "dumb" always perceptive and got decent grades, but I had a problem retaining the information without a lot of extra work or emotion involved. I forget things very easily, but not to the point that it's screwing up my life. At what point do we ask ourselves is a safe and boring world really living...? Now if they're playing sports, yeah, don't be a moron, get your kid out and take them to the doctor...but frankly, the damage is done at that point.

charles
charles

Uhhh how about an informed society???? personally I didin't know about the future problems but thanks to this article I do now....people like you should be hit in the head with a shovel.....after diggin of course.

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

I don't see what the news is here. It's common sense. Isn't western medicine and big pharma the saviours of the western world? It's obvious...if you get hit in the head you sit out and get checked. Sports is a game, it's not crucial to play with injury. In fact it's a programmed response for slaves to adhere to and be one of the pack.

 
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