— Imagine 600 youths aged 3 to 14 playing eight games of
soccer and flag football and completing more than five hours
of competition — no, an entire fall season — without
"It can happen," said Craig Magram, owner of the i9
Sports league. "We’re all about kids enjoying
themselves, learning the fundamentals of sports without some
of the dangerous risks that could lead to head injuries."
parental concerns about concussions mount, more athletic
leagues like i9 Sports are stepping up their efforts to
prevent such injuries.
all of the talk and repercussions of concussions and other
injuries to children, we like i9 because it protects our
kids," said Alan Sweet, a Suwanee, Ga., father of three.
whole as I call it ‘kinder, gentler’ approach works across
their entire program. Injuries are avoided and rules are
developed to give every participant a good and balanced
attempt to participate.
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half
a million children visit the emergency room each year with a
traumatic brain injury.
effort to help prevent brain injuries in youth athletes,
Atlanta-area i9 Sports recently launched Concussion Crusade,
drawing up new rules like no heading and instituting a When In
Doubt, Sit It Out policy that it hopes will make playing
sports safer for children. In addition, all parents and young
athletes must sign a pledge to practice good sportsmanship.
Northside Youth Organization, which has more than 6,000
children aged 4 to 14 in its programs, is also stepping up its
game, said Jane Wilkins, executive director. With the
heightened publicity about concussions, Wilkins said NYO has
been even more diligent in its efforts.
made a very concerted effort in all our sports to raise
awareness," Wilkins said.
includes, she said, holding medical clinics for parents and
athletes about how to avoid injury and what steps to take
should injury occur.
are not physically developed enough to absorb contact without
serious risk of concussion, and the possibility of brain
damage is very real," said Dr. Robert Cantu, a renowned
neurosurgeon, expert on youth sports safety and author of the
book "Concussions and Our Kids."
sports have taken the wrong turn in that it’s all become so
serious. People are grooming their children to be superstars,
often without regard for their safety."
initially enrolled his daughter and two sons, now ages 6, 8
and 10, in Magram’s league more for convenience than
like the no hard contact part," Sweet said.
the signs and symptoms of concussions vary, it’s important
parents know what to look for, said Marla Shapiro, chief
neuropsychologist at Gwinnett Medical Center-Duluth’s
signs and symptoms can vary, and may not look all that
different from ‘typical teenage variability,’"
Shapiro said. "On one occasion, I saw a child whose first
sign was that a slight tap on the head led to tears.
Cognitive, physical, emotional, and sleep-related symptoms
include headache, nausea, excessive fatigue, fogginess,
sensitivity to light and/or noise, poorer memory, or just not
feeling quite right." Shapiro said there is no magic
formula or time frame because everyone recovers at their own
rate, based on a variety of factors.
makes the impact of concussions so severe is if a second
concussion occurs when the patient hasn’t healed from the
first concussion," she said.
they are symptom-free, we gradually return to physical
activity, using a specific 5-7 step protocol under the
supervision of a sports medicine professional with expertise
in concussion management." Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill
recently, mandating how school coaches and recreation leaders
should handle youth athletes who are suspected of having
the "Return to Play Act of 2013," which goes into
effect Jan. 1, any youth suspected of having a concussion must
be removed from the game and cannot return to play until
cleared by a health care professional.
said i9 Sports considers protecting future generations from
such injury its responsibility.
educate them in school," he said. "Parents teach
them life lessons for survival. We want to protect their
bodies while teaching them teamwork in a fun, safe and