Editorial: Adopt concussion guidelines

Given what we know about the long-lasting impact that concussions have on the brain, having a statewide policy aimed at limiting the injuries to youth sports athletes makes good sense.

The state's Traumatic Brain Injury/Sports-Related Concussion Task Force has looked at the problem of concussion-related injuries and has compiled a list of recommendations that the Maryland Board of Education will consider next month.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, between 2001 and 2009 emergency rooms nationwide treated 173,285 people ages 1 to 19 for sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries.

Attention in the professional sports world has helped improve awareness about the dangers of concussions, as well as the cumulative effect of multiple injuries to the head. The NFL has taken steps designed to reduce concussions, and in the NASCAR racing series last year star driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat out several races after suffering a concussion in a race accident.

The mantra in sports at every level has always been to play through the pain. And players themselves just about always want to get back into the action to help their teams. That's why it is important for coaches and others in positions of authority to step in and help keep their players safe by keeping them on the bench.

Today, many schools, colleges and even professional sports teams have guidelines that they follow to achieve that goal. But in the area of school athletics, it just makes sense to have statewide guidelines that everyone is expected to follow.

At the end of the day, given what we know about concussions, it just makes sense to take additional precautions to protect athletes, especially youth athletes whose entire future could be altered because of a head injury.

The state Board of Education needs to take a serious look at the task force's recommendations, and put in place processes and guidelines that will protect youth involved in sports.