This Sunday, millions of Americans – myself included – will tune in to watch the Super Bowl, the annual championship game of the National Football League, and the most-watched television broadcast in the United States. Some viewers will be cheering for a particular team; others will care more about the commercials or the halftime performance. I, however, will be on the lookout for concussions, an issue that has plagued the sport in recent years.
As the oldest of five siblings, three of whom played football, I am particularly concerned about the potential impact of concussions on youth athletes. And so too are state legislators: since 2009, when Washington enacted the first youth concussion law, all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia, have enacted some form of youth sports concussion legislation.
However, while every American child is now protected to some degree, children in certain states, like Washington, have been afforded greater safeguards than children in other states, like Mississippi. This is a problem: according to the CDC, youth athletes are particularly susceptible to the effects of concussions because their brains are still developing. This problem is exacerbated when children are subjected to differing levels of legal protection across state lines.
In addition to being an oldest sibling, I am also a second-year law student and an advocate for stronger youth concussion safety laws. Over the past year, I have read and analyzed all fifty-one statutes and read hundreds of articles on this topic. From my research, I have categorized these laws into five distinct tiers, ranging from most to least protective (see the chart below). My next post will expand upon how I have characterized each tier.
By placing these statutes into tiers, I hope to inspire state legislators, especially those in the bottom groupings, to strengthen their concussion laws. But perhaps more importantly, I hope to educate the public on the importance of youth concussion safety. And so this Sunday, while you are scarfing down pizza, keep in mind that football is a dangerous sport, one that has potentially dire consequences for the millions of youth athletes watching at home.