The Gary Galiher Law Hour — Episode 12: The Emerging Science of Youth Sports w/ Cora Speck

Sports-related brain injuries threaten the lives of millions of people in the US today. Parents of student athletes must be especially aware of the risks involved when their kids play contact sports.

The research into this category of injury continues day by day. Now, we are seeing it’s not just concussions: it’s a whole spectrum underneath.

The very same physiological mechanisms that help the brain heal from concussions are unfolding at sub-concussive levels, too. As Gary says, “If a concussion takes 60, or 80 or 100 Gs to lose consciousness, the brain, when it receives contact of 25 or fewer Gs typical of a hit… to repair itself, there’s a cascade of chemicals get released, and it tries to take itself offline, and becomes very delicate for a period of time.”

Our guest today is Cora Speck, Trauma Injury Prevention Outreach Coordinator at the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Among many job duties, she researches innovations that help prevent sports injuries.

Science supports the idea that athletes who sustain injuries on this spectrum will need time before they return to play, but the proverbial jury is still deliberating on how long might be needed. If we are serious about establishing how to keep our athletes from more harm when they return to play, Cora says, “we should be advocating for the Nat’l Institute of Health and Center for Disease Control, probably the Department of Defense as well, to be putting more attention and money into research like this.”

Further research is need, says Cora, for us to know at what age it might be safe for a person to know “at what point is there any sort of structural or chemical changes that could be detected, that could indicate to a family that this is the cutoff point, that if you proceed to choose to proceed, that you are putting your child’s full adult life in jeopardy.”

Concussions can happen even without any contact to the head: blows to the body can cause them, too. Another looming question is what age is appropriate for kids to play contact sports such as football.

We’re learning more every day, and in the podcast we offer lots more valuable discussion on this very big subject. Tune in!

Category: Brain Injury, Gary Galiher Law Hour


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