Sports-related brain injuries have gained considerable national attention, but we must remember that even young athletes are at risk for severe injuries or death.
In 2004, Colorado high school freshman Jake Snakenberg died from second impact syndrome, a condition where two concussions are sustained within a short period of time.
Jake’s mother recently spoke before two U.S. House committees to share her son’s story and to push for concussion research. The hearing allowed Congress to discover possible methods coaches and educators can use to prevent severe complications from brain injuries. If Jake’s first concussion had been caught by school athletic staff or his family, it’s possible he would still be alive today.
Can Schools Prevent Second Impact Syndrome?
This is not the first time Jake’s story has been used to develop guidelines for keeping young athletes safe from brain injuries. Colorado lawmakers passed the Jake Snakenberg Youth Sports Concussion Act (JSYSCA) in 2011.
The law requires coaches to undergo training to identify players suspected of having concussions. Under the JSYSCA, high school athletes suspected of having concussions cannot return to playing until after being cleared by a medical professional. Similar policies may help protect young athletes in other states.
Jake’s story is a powerful reminder that more research and additional laws will be needed to protect young athletes from concussions. If coaches can’t recognize the symptoms of concussions, players could be at risk for succumbing to second impact syndrome.
Keep in mind, second-impact syndrome is not always deadly. Young athletes have been left severely disabled from the same condition.