Australia finds itself facing a new look at head safety in youth sports following a dangerous incident which has caught the nation’s attention, just as concussion issues and equipment safety have captured the attention of the American public in recent years.
Make no mistake, Australia isn’t about to have a presidential summit on sports safety as President Obama recently convened here at home, but the renewed focus on how to improve youth sports safety has been noticeable in later June. Here’s what happened to get there:
As reported by Australian network 9 News, in the span of a week, two different young rugby league players were hospitalized with concussive incidents suffered during youth league matches. A 16-year-old, Tyler Horton, was forced to undergo emergency brain surgery that removed part of his skull following an accident where he was kneed in the head. He was left in a medically induced coma for multiple days after that accident.
Worse yet was the incident that befell 13-year-old Jarrod Fletcher, who suffered a concussion while playing for the Macarthur Saints in a match against Campbelltown City. Disturbingly, after coming off the field he was allowed to re-enter the game just minutes later and quickly collapsed on the pitch, eventually requiring an emergency helicopter airlift to a nearby hospital.
Today that wouldn’t happen here in the U.S., or if it did any trainers and medics involved would quickly be fired for allowing it to occur. That’s because of an increased focus on second impact syndrome, which can be deadly for young athletes who suffer concussions.
Second impact syndrome is not nearly as well recognized in other parts of the world, and Australia is still coming to grips with how to limit the danger facing young athletes. While the New South Wales Rugby League (which governs the teams in both matches that saw the accidents) has established protocol that mandates any player suspected of a concussion be removed from the field and sit out all action that day, there is a clear gap in medical training to ensure that the adults assessing head injuries are qualified to do so.
In the meantime, the country will continue to search for answers to avoid incidents like the ones that the Horton and Fletcher families were still coming to grips with.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world for any mother to see their child lying unconscious along the sideline,” Horton’s mother, Paula Horton told 9 News.