Link Between Early Specialization And ACL Injury Increase: No Surprise to Me

Today's annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons brought some news sports parents need to hear.

The shoe doesn't fit

The first bit of disturbing news came from Swiss researchers. Think your child is wearing the right size shoes when playing sports? Think again. A study by researchers in Switzerland found that a surprising majority of kids ages 5 to 10 are wearing shoes that are too small for their feet, putting them at risk of developing serious foot deformities including bunions. No wonder the shoes were too small considering the study's finding that nine of ten of the shoes kids wear for outdoor activities were smaller than the size marked on the box!

The three lessons parents should take from the study: (1) Measure your children's feet every time you buy them new shoes using a special measuring device to ensure that the length of the shoe exceeds the length of the child's foot by at least 10 millimeters; (2) Consider the actual size of the shoe rather than just the number marked on the inside of the shoe or the box; and (3) Check every month or so to see if a child's shoes still fit, especially when the child is in a growth spurt. (Remember: many children will often outgrow their shoes well before the shoes are worn out).

Link between ACL injury epidemic and early specialization

The second was a presentation by Darren L. Johnson, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon and director of sports medicine at the University of School of Medicine. Dr. Johnson suggested that the alarming increase in the number of younger children and adolescents suffering ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries playing sports, particularly among girls, may be the result of the trend towards early specialization and year-round play in a single sport.

"Not long ago our youth participated in multiple sports, which effectively allowed an athlete to cross train and use multiple muscle groups differently and develop their potential," Dr. Johnson said. "But nowadays kids are picking one sport by the time they are 13 and playing year round on multiple teams, home and travel, which only allows development of the specific muscle group that applies to that specific sport. To play multiple sports is, in the best sense, childlike and fun," says Dr. Johnson. "Specialization at an early age conveys a seriousness of purpose that can lead to burnout, injury or both, which is common in high school athletes."

Dr. Johnson said that while all the effects of the extra wear and tear on a 13-year-old's growing body from playing so many games (often more than college athletes play) aren't yet known, what is known is that "participating without taking time off, playing on multiple teams at one time and at higher competition levels, makes young athletes susceptible to ACL tears at a younger age."

Doomed to pain-filled future?

To add injury to injury, pressure from parents and coaches or placed by the athletes on themselves is leading too many young athletes to come back from an ACL injury - which usually requires surgery and as much as a year of intensive rehabilitation - far too soon.  Returning too soon puts the athlete at a higher risk for another ACL injury.  Between 30 and 40 percent of athletes suffering a single ACL tear never return to their previous level of performance and are at increased risk of long-term degenerative changes in the knee such as arthritis.  The chances of coming back from two ACL injuries are even less.

Indeed, Dr. Johnson, notes, it is not uncommon these days for young athletes to have had two ACLs replaced by the time they enter high school. "Once that happens," Dr. Johnson warns, "it is very unlikely their knees will ever be normal."

The suspected link between an increase in ACL injuries in 12- and 13-year old children and early specialization and year-round play doesn't surprise me. I have been warning parents for years, both on this site and in my book, Home Team Advantage, about the many reasons early specialization is a bad idea for their kids, and that the trend is supported by myths, not facts. It is a trend we must reverse. If we don't, more and more kids will be doomed to a life of chronic knee, elbow or ankle pain. Is that what we want for our kids? I don't think so.


High School Sports Safety: California Poised To Jump on the Bandwagon

A new day, a new state high school sports safety bill.

Or so it seems.

Last week, it was the state of Washington passing bills to improve concussion safety by requiring pre-season concussion education of athletes and parents, and adoption of the strictest return-to-play concussion guidelines in the country. The bill awaits the governor's signature.

On Tuesday, Kentucky governor Steve Beshear signed into law a safety bill requiring all high school coaches in the state to complete a 10-hour sports first-aid and sports-safety training course and pass an exam before the 2009-2010 school year and the presence of at least one coach with training in emergency planning, heat and cold illnesses, head, neck and facial injuries and first aid at every youth sports practice or game.

Yesterday, it was California's turn to try to jump on the high school sports safety bandwagon. I received an e-mail from the Chief of Staff for Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi about a bill (AB 533) she had recently introduced into the California state assembly which would require each high school sports coach in California complete a coaching education program that includes training in recognizing and managing the signs and symptoms of potentially catastrophic injuries, including but not limited to: head and neck injuries, concussions, second impact syndrome, asthma attacks, heatstroke, and sudden cardiac arrest; emergency action planning; and communicating effectively with 911 emergency services. The bill will receive its first policy hearing before the Assembly's Education Committee on April 1, 2009.

As someone who has been fighting for years for youth sports safety, these legislative developments are heartening. While, as I said in previous blogs on the Washington and Kentucky laws that they don't go far enough, and while the same is true of the California bill, now isn't the time to complain: it is the time to get excited about seeing youth sports safety issues getting the attention they deserves.

There is much work to do, but, for now, it is time for me to give a big MomsTeam shout out to the Washington and Kentucky legislatures and to California Assembleywoman Hayashi for what they are doing to help keep our kids safe. My message to rest of the country's legislatures: c'mon! Get on board, too!

Average: 4 (1 vote)

Winter Can Be A Wonderland, But Safety Comes First

Winter wonderland from the officeI think I may be doing a lot of writing this winter from my home office, by the looks of it. It seems like just yesterday that I was listening to the hummingbirds three feet away from my desk. Today the snow falls deep, giving me an opportunity to take it slow,  and have fun snow shoeing in the winter wonderland.

Early this morning, as a major New England winter storm began, a friend and I went for a long snowshoe adventure on the conservation trails all around my home. As cold and quiet as it was deep in the woods, we marveled at the stillness of life. Just a month before we were kayaking on the now frozen river, which now provides safe passage for the deer and coyotes. We were tempted to cross at Caleb's Cove to explore the paths across from my home, but decided to wait and try in two-week's time.

While my friend was almost certain that the ice was solid, and urged me to "come on, it's a wonderland over there," I was not so sure. I promised him that if it remained below freezing for the next two weeks I would be game to join him. In situations like this I need to be 110% sure. When kids are involved I need to be 150% certain.

As the wind and snow began to pick up, and the trudging became more difficult, I let my mind drift to the halcyon winter days when my sons were very young. Some of the happiest times we had were sledding down the local hills. (Looking back over the years, I wonder why I never bought my sons snow shoes. They are safe, fun and provide an excellent opportunity for family fun.)  Our dog Caleb (yes, the swimming cove is now named for him) loved to sit on my lap as we raced his "brothers" down the hills. He let me hold him like a kid, with his legs out front. Maybe a bit dangerous but I reasoned that as long as we did not go over any jumps or head in the direction of trees it was safe.

I think winter sports bring out the little kid in us all. What adult is not tempted to sit on a sno-tube and barrel down a local hill? Who can say no to the chance to ice-skate on a glass-smooth frozen pond? Or toss a snow ball at a friend, or pitch in with the snow man production?

When it came to protecting my kids I was very cautious and educated enough on the potential winter dangers to keep them safe. At least I thought I was educated. Looking back over the years at some of the hazards and accidents I know I am much wiser now. Two of the worst accidents that happened (like most accidents) were preventable and I pass them on to you in the hopes that they may help prevent a needless trip to the hospital, cutting short your fun. 

Winter wonderland.One of our favorite sledding hills was at the local high school. As long as the kids stayed away from the line of trees to one side (my only rule), I thought they were safe. One day as I was loading up the car and the kids were taking some last runs, I turned to head back to the hill just in time to see Spencer veer of course as he hit an ice patch, catapulting him in the direction of the guard-rail that separated the hill from the road at the back of the school. Seconds later, unable to bail out he careened into the metal rail full force. An emergency trip to the hospital and fifteen stitches above his lip later, we all agreed that he was "lucky" it was not worse. From that time on I made sure that the high school custodians put bales of hay all along the rail to protect all the sledders. Sadly, they no longer put out the hay. Instead, there is a large sign that reads "Sled At Your Own Risk."

The second serious accident involved a helmet-less head crashing backwards on to a mogul during a snow boarding trip. A concussion can bring a wonderful trip to an end very quickly. Enough said.

And be sure to check out the MomsTeam Feature Article  this week.


Competitive Sports: Never Too Late To Achieve Success

Two thought provoking sports stories crossed my desk this week.

The first was about 81-year-old marathon runner, Joy Johnson of San Jose, California.   On Sunday, November 2nd, Joy ran in her 21st consecutive New York City Marathon, where she not only successfully defended her age group (80 to 90) title for the sixth time in twelve years, but trimmed nearly an hour off her year-earlier time by finishing in six hours five minutes 58 seconds.

What is so interesting about Joy's story is that she never exercised or played sports while growing up in Minnesota and only began to run when she 57!  

The second was an article in the November 5th edition of USA Today about Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, two 19-year-olds from small villages in India who are preparing to compete in a pitching contest that may land them Major League Baseball contracts.

Former Texas Rangers pitcher and current University of Southern California pitching coach, Tom House, has spent the last six months working with Singh and Patel, neither of whom had thrown a baseball until they were 18 years old.  House remarked, "This is like medical science. It's turning raw athletes into pitchers. You wouldn't believe how far they've come."

To me, it is not so much medical science as it is common sense.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the arm of an 18-year-old with 50 innings under his belt is likely to be a lot fresher and a lot less injury prone than the arm of an 18-year old who has been throwing 300 innings since he was ten years old, like so many of our young pitchers.

In my book, Home Team Advantage, and on this website, I write extensively about the dangers of early specialization and the need to not only delay specialization but to limit participation and take time off from sports.  I suspect that Joy Johnson is running marathons today in her 80's precisely because she wasn't an athlete when she was a child and thus didn't experience the sports burnout and crippling overuse injuries so many of our children are suffering today; burnout that turn them off to sports as adults and injuries that may make participation as adults physically painful if not impossible.  I also suspect that Singh and Patel may succeed precisely because, and not in spite, of the fact that they only recently took up the game of baseball.

As one sixteen-year-old baseball player who had to undergo so-called Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his elbow after starting a mind-boggling sixty-four games one summer for a travel baseball team told The New York Times, "I'm [a] living example of someone who did too much.  I would tell young kids coming up now, ‘Don't be such a hero.  Take a rest.  I look back now on all those games I won when I was fourteen or fifteen.  They weren't worth it."

The lesson to learn from the stories of Joy Johnson and Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel? It's never too late to achieve success in sports, whether one is in their eighties or a fresh-faced nineteen year old.



Average: 4 (1 vote)

Soccer Goal Posts Can and Do Fatally Injure Kids

At the beginning of the month, 8-year-old Gabriel Mendoza was hanging on the crossbar of a soccer goal post during a soccer game in South Mountain, Arizona, when it fell on him. He was the ninth boy in the past three years to die from a falling goal post. News reports of his death did not say whether the goal post was anchored or, if it was anchored, whether it was anchored incorrectly.

The accident is eerily similar to the death of Zachary Tran, a 6-year old 1st grader from Vernon Hills, Illinois, who died when an unanchored soccer goal post fell on him in the fall of 2003. Zachary was at soccer practice when his mother last saw him practicing around the goal. She asked Zach to stop hanging from the goal post and pay attention to the coach because she needed to take one of the children in her carpool to the restroom.

Several minutes later, while no one was looking, the goal somehow fell on Zach, causing massive head trauma. Paramedics were unable to revive him, and Zachary was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital less than an hour later. The official cause of death was cardiac arrest due to massive head injuries.

While I have never witnessed a soccer goal fall on a child, I will never forget the raw and blustery late autumn afternoon a few years back when I was running a soccer practice for a group of nine- and ten year-olds. A game was being played on an adjacent field. Suddenly, a snow squall struck. A gust of wind sent one of the goals crashing to the ground. We all looked to see what caused the loud noise and were shocked when we saw what had happened. Fortunately, no one was injured. But, to this day, I still remember the sound of that goal toppling over and I shudder each time I think what might have happened had it fallen over on a child.

A chilling reminder

There are between 395,000 and 600,000 soccer goals in the United States. Many are unsafe because they are unstable and either unanchored or not correctly anchored or counterbalanced. In addition, even properly secured goalposts pose an unnecessary danger to players, primarily goalies, because the vast majority are unpadded. Even though goalies comprise only six percent of soccer players, they suffer nineteen percent of all soccer injuries. When a player collides with the post of a heavy, stationary goal post, the player absorbs all of the impact of the collision.

Soccer goals can weigh up to 400 pounds and are top-heavy because the bars are made of metal. While anchoring unsafe goals goes a long way to prevent incidents, the ultimate answer is to revamp soccer goals, using lighter materials and tip-resistant design. A new ASTM standard for tip-resistant soccer goal (F2673-08) has recently been released. 

Something to smile about

Many leagues have invested in the proper anchor systems and there are countless sports groups who implement precautions to prevent catastrophic injury from soccer goals. There are also non-profit organizations working tirelessly to educate coaches and parents on ways to prevent death or injury. One such organization is Anchored for Safety, which was established by Zachary Tran's family to provide tools to empower individuals and groups to make soccer goals safe in their area. The site includes recommendations for safe handling, repositioning and storage of soccer goals.

We need to work harder so that no more children like Gabriel Mendoza and Zachary Tran die from falling soccer goalposts.  All of these deaths are preventable!

Average: 4 (1 vote)

Three Strikes, You're Out!

Stories of embezzlement of funds from youth sports organizations appear in the media on a regular basis, but the latest story really takes the cake.  What is remarkable about it isn't that the person accused of embezzlement was the former president of a youth baseball or how much money he allegedly took ($16,000), but that he was allowed to take over as president despite a criminal background check which disclosed a prior conviction for embezzlement

According to the article in the September 10, 2008 Grand Rapids Press, court documents revealed that James Anderson, 42, actually had not one but two embezzlement convictions on his record, including one in 2003 for taking $20,000 from two mentally disabled adults for which he served a year in jail before being released on probation. The records showed that he was still on probation when he took over as president of the Allendale (MI) Township Youth Athletic Association in 2006 and the entire time he was alleged to have embezzled funds between January 1, 2007 and May 2008.

How, if the criminal background check disclosed one of the embezzlement convictions, was Anderson given another chance to stick his hand in the cookie jar?  Because, according to the Little League's new president, John Hanes, the association is "an all-volunteer group" that is forced to "take what it can get."

Take what it can get???

Mr. Anderson can't be serious!

Admittedly, most youths sports organizations operate with virtually no oversight beyond their volunteer boards of directors, and their often lax financial controls make them easy and tempting targets for thieves. Inviting a thief to become head of a youth sports organization when you know that he is a thief? He took what he could get, all right!

Because youth sports institutions have traditionally been self-regulating and independently financed, they often escape formal scrutiny or accountability. Youth sports program need to provide for greater input from parents, makes their mission statements, bylaws, and the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of board members and other administrators publicly available, provide for term limits for directors, holds open board meetings, and engage in benchmarking.

They also need to perform background checks on everyone associated with the program, including the volunteers, like Mr. Anderson, who appears to have been more than happy to volunteer to empty the Little League's coffers, like a kid being given the keys to the candy store.

But what good are background checks if the results are ignored?

Shame on the board of directors of the Allendale Township Youth Athletic Association for appointing Mr. Anderson president knowing that he had been convicted of embezzlement.

Shame on Mr. Hanes for trying to excuse the board's breach of its duties to the parents and kids in the program by saying that the association somehow had to take a thief off the street because it couldn't find anyone else.

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Steroid Testing Program Ends a Long Debate

I read with interest a recent ( June 3, 2008) article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Steroid testing ends to mixed reviews- "Florida's decision last summer to implement a steroid testing program for high school athletes made national headlines.
But now that most state-sanctioned sporting events have ended, so has the one-year pilot program.
The result?

Of approximately 600 athletes, only one tested positive, said FHSAA spokeswoman Cristina Alvarez."


8.6 million dollars later and I can only imagine what types of programs that money could have gone towards. I wrote about this in a Washington Post Op-Ed which ran on December 5, 2006 and will share it with you in the hopes that it may save another state from wasting money.


Spend Money on Sports Programs Not Drug Testing High School Athletes

Washington Post Dec. 5, 2006

Last Tuesday, John Walters, the White House director of National Drug Policy, and Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon, announced with great fanfare at a high school in Florida that $8.6 million in federal money had been earmarked for student drug testing programs across the country.


That money would be better spent to fund programs designed to increase participation in after-school sports programs that could reduce drug usage by our teens and stem the epidemic of childhood obesity.


There is an urgent need to reform the interscholastic sports programs in the nation's public middle and high schools to provide for full inclusion.


The current public high school model - one first-year team, one varsity, one sub varsity - might have made sense at the time it was adopted in 1924, when the number of roster spots was roughly equal to the number of those who wanted to play. But it makes no sense today, when the number of those who want to continue playing sports in middle school and high school far exceeds the finite number of spots available.


It is especially important for teenagers to know that they belong; that they fit in. Cutting tells teenagers that they don't fit in, that they don't belong. This is the wrong message to send during adolescence. As the most prominent of all high school extracurricular activities, athletics continues to confer on its participants the highest levels of status and prestige in our teenage culture. The feeling by athletes that they are special tends to lead to disharmony, the creation of cliques, and to reinforcing the jock culture, not to promoting feelings of community, full inclusion, and cooperative learning that schools work so hard to instill. Adopting a policy of full inclusion would be especially beneficial for teenage boys, for whom sports would provide an outlet for their aggression and help them connect socially with other boys.


Under full inclusion, teams would be added as necessary to meet the demand, even if it meant fielding two or three more teams. Every athlete would practice, but only athletes in good academic standing and with no disciplinary problems would suit up for games. To ensure that schools would field the most competitive teams, the most skilled players would still get the bulk of the playing time at the varsity level.


The extra teams could be funded through the additional user fees, with money raised by booster clubs and/or by parents of the athletes themselves, some of whom could be recruited as volunteer coaches. Government money now spent on drug testing of athletes could be redirected to fund more sports teams.


According to a February 2006 Gallup Youth Study, one in five teens is now overweight with only 21 percent of teens claiming to participate in sports or recreation five to six days a week and only 19 percent of our teens participating in vigorous sports or physical activity five to six days a week. Children who are cut from sports teams will not exercise as frequently as they would if they were playing sports; they are much more likely to spend their afternoons watching television, becoming obese, and getting into trouble.


Another recent study found a positive association between playing interscholastic sports and an increase in the number of an athlete's friends who are academically oriented. The study also found that participation in interscholastic sports "significantly increased social ties between students and parents, students and the school, parents and the school, and parents and parents ... and a reduction in illicit drug and alcohol use."


Signs that the time to eliminate exclusion from school sports teams surfaces on a daily basis. Last week marked the conclusion of the 2006 fall school, club and town sports seasons. If the nation's newspapers are any guide, it was the most troubled and violent youth sports season on record.


A policy of full inclusion for interscholastic sports at the middle and high school level would also eliminate one of the principal reasons for parental misconduct in youth sports.


Given the intense competition for the limited roster spots on high school teams, no wonder so many parents are led by our winner-take-all society to act in inappropriate ways - to become violent when they see their child's chances at winning one of the coveted spots threatened by a coach who decides to sit him or her on the bench.


It simply makes no sense whatsoever from a public health standpoint to continue the cutting policy that contributes to an overall decline in physical fitness among adolescents and young adults and does nothing to combat drug use by keeping teens busy in after-school programs such as sports.


Brooke de Lench is the author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins Sept. 2006) and editor-in-chief of






Let It Out: The Movie

I arrived at work today before 7:00 a.m. After being out of the office for a few days I wanted to beat the imminent (and, these days, unceasing), torrential rains and morning traffic. Returning to the office after days away is always a little like breaking a piñata. I never know what will land my desk.

I arrived to a stack of mail and a FedEx envelope marked "Extremely Urgent." In the internet business one quickly learns that if you let extremely urgent envelopes sit unopened for too long then there usually is no need to ever open them. These envelopes usually hold contracts or press releases.

Earlier this month, I had been invited to preview a real gem: Let It Out: The Movie, produced by the good folks at Kleenex®, who have been the official suppliers of facial tissue to the U.S. Olympic Team since 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. In the FedEx envelope was a DVD of the movie.

Despite work deadlines and a pile of unopened mail on my desk, I could not resist popping the hour-long DVD into my computer. For a few moments, as the DVD was loading, I continued to think about the work day ahead. But then the words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj suddenly popped into my mind: "All desires are bad, but some are worse than others. Pursue any desire, it will always give you trouble." I sat back with my cup of coffee and spent the next 50 minutes thoroughly entertained.

The film premiered on August 11, 2008 in Beijing at US House, headquarters to the USOC during the games. On August 13th, there will be free screenings at 25 selected movies around the country. The next day Olympic fans will be able to watch the movie online by logging on to Kleenex's special website :

In the movie, Mia Hamm, Michael Johnson, Mary Lou Retton and dozens of other Olympic legends "let it out" about the life-altering experience of being an Olympic athlete. Mike Eurizione, captain of the 1980 US Men's Hockey "Miracle on Ice" team, puts the experience in perspective. "Winning the gold on the dream team in the 1980 Olympics never felt like a miracle to be," he says. "It felt like a hockey game. I don't look at athletic events as miracles. To me a miracle is children being born. And, things of that nature are miracles."

The movie then transitions from Eurozione's observations to Labor and Delivery nurse, Terry Cotterall-Lagana, from New Rochelle, New York. "I just love the fact that when I go to work, I do miracles all day," she says. "I help women have babies. I have spent the last fifteen years of my life helping other people give birth. And, at the end of it they are holding their little gold medal. Their little victory. Their futures. And, I say to my moms: ‘See what you have done! There is your little victory!' And I say to my mothers, ‘Look down [at your newborn child]. See what you have created; what you have done. Here's your victory. Don't forget this moment. Because, it's all there right in your arms. And, you get to hold on to it for life.'"

That I was right to put aside my work to watch the movie was confirmed near the end of the movie when I heard journalist Paul Hochman asked Maureen Bennett O'Connor of New Jersey, "How can the Games add up to so much more than just a collection of 50 to 60,000 people sitting in the stands? Why is it that a world comes together?"

She answered, "You can never discount desire. And, I think you have the desire to want to see history unfold, in some way. And, I think you can really, really be impacted by somebody else's goals being achieved."

Watching the film gave me the opportunity to pause during one of the most spectacular Olympics of all time to reflect on my own victory. My hat trick. My triple play. My trifecta: My triplet sons.

I hope that all youth sports parents have a chance to watch "Let It Out." It can serve as a reminder of our own "little gold medals." And what is truly the most amazing victory for each of us. It tells us that, as important as sports may be, as thrilling as winning an Olympic medal may be, it can never be as important as the joy of being a parent, of being a mom.

Don't make the same mistake I did. Be prepared. Make sure your box of Kleenex is close by for this one.


On a personal note: One of my childhood desires was to swim or ski in the Olympics. It was not to be. My knee gave out and my desire dwindled after that. However, I was able to fulfill my lifelong desire to attend an Olympics when, in 2002, I had the honor of being an invited guest of three time Olympic Ice Hockey medalist and MomsTeam expert, Angela Ruggiero, at the ATT center for families for the duration of the Salt Lake City Games. The glorious experience was never lost on me during those cold days in Utah. I spent my 50th birthday there with my sons and all of the families of the athletes. There was one particular memento that I brought back from the games that summed up my own experience. It was a bag full of Kleenex commemorative pocket packs. Each was wrapped in blue, green or red paper. Friends and family teased me about my little gifts to them, but to me they were the most useful and significant piece of memorabilia for that tear-filled event for all of us.

Concussion Right #1: Pre-Season Safety Meeting

The best way to ensure that athletes who suffer concussions playing sports have the best possible outcome in both the short and long term is to educate them and their parents about the importance of self-reporting and the parent's role in the critical return to play decision.

The first right of parents under the Parent's Concussion Bill of Rights is to expect that their child's athletic program will hold a conconcussion education and safety meeting for parents and athletes before every season Ideally, the meeting should include presentations by:

  • checking for signs of deteriorating mental status requiring immediate hospitalization,
  • ensuring that their child gets the cognitive rest required,
  • monitoring for continuing signs and symptoms of post-concussion syndrome that must clear completely before an athlete should be allowed to return to play, and
  • educating their child about the dangers they face if they fail to report symptoms or begin playing again before symptoms have cleared.

Medical doctors familiar with the grading and evaluation of concussions and return to play guidelines to educate parents on the important role they play in their child's recovery from a suspected concussion, especially in terms of:

  • Former athletes who can share personal stories about the consequences of continuing to play with concussion symptoms and/or the long term health consequences of multiple concussions, such as reoccurring headaches, depression, and concentration and memory problems; and
  • Parents of concussed athletes who can emphasize how critical it is that, in making the all-important return-to-play decision, parents put a child's long term future and well-being above short-term athletic success; that parents constantly evaluate, along with their child if she is old enough, whether the risk of chronic, major depression or early signs of Alzheimer's down the road may make ending a career the best choice.

Regardless of who the program calls to make presentations at the meeting, the goal should be to provide parents and athletes with the all-important information they need to decide when it is safe to return to play, whether it be the next game, next season or not at all. To reinforce the message of the meeting, parents should be furnished with information to take home, such as articles from this website or obtained from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as part of its "Heads Up" kit (which contains a good video on concussions that be a substitute for live

Parents are in the best position to help their child see that their health should not take a back seat to short term individual and team success, but they need to know, also, that the program is not sending out a different message.