New concussion law will affect student athletes

You're going to see something new when your kids head back to school. It's a new law designed to protect your child when they play sports.

Carrie Miskill is a star athlete. This rising senior at North County High in Glen Burnie plays lacrosse, field hockey and basketball.

But Carrie suffered some serious damage playing her favorite sports. While playing basketball, "the ball came off the backboard and hit me dead in the forehead, I just fell over and hit my head on the court."

Carrie didn't think anything of it at the time, so she continued to play. She says, "We were scrimmaging and I got elbowed in the head, I got elbowed in the head again, and then again, so then at that point, I said have to sit down, I feel like I'm going to throw up."

Carrie ended up in the hospital with a sports concussion, a condition that can be dangerous for teens.

Dr. Kevin Crutchfield, director of the comprehensive sports concussion program at Sinai Hospital says, "The younger brain is still developing so it is more susceptible to being disrupted . As you're still trying to branch out and connect to different parts of the brain which is a process that still occurs up to the age of 24, you're going to disrupt some of those connections and that can lead to dysfunction later on."

Things only got worse for Carrie. 10 days later, she got another concussion. She was hit in the head with a lacrosse stick.

Her symptoms became unbearable. She says, "I couldn't sleep at all, I had pounding headaches everyday, I felt like I was going to throw up every time I ate."

Dr. Crutchfield says, "The high school athlete is at risk of what we call the second impact syndrome… these kids can literally drop within minutes after their second hit in front of their teammates and be dead within hours."

Julie O'Reilly, a psychologist at Sinai works with patients who have suffered concussions. She says teachers should be aware that injured teens may have a hard time concentrating in school and that they may need extra time completing tests.

O'Reilly says, "This is a silent epidemic. You can't see the injury, but it really is real."

It's such a real danger for teens, yet not everyone is aware. Starting this year though, there's a new law in Maryland to protect teens who suffer from sports concussions.

Dr. Crutchfield was instrumental in getting the legislation passed. Kids suspected of suffering a concussion must get properly evaluated before returning to the game.

And a licensed health care provider who's trained and certified in concussion management must be the one who clears the kid to play.

Dr. Crutchfield says, "Doctors who aren't trained in brain injury need to stop playing cowboy and stop pretending that they understand the brain."

It's a law Carrie wishes was in effect when she first got injured. All she can do now is focus on recovering. She says, "It's getting better. I can feel it."

If your kid plays sports in school, expect to see those changes when they start the new school year.

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