Just before Christmas the rancor surrounding America’s ongoing concussion and head safety debate turned its attention to New Mexico, where Cleveland star running back Shawn Nieto competed in a state title game less than a week after apparently suffering a concussion on a hit in a state semifinal. The teen was only allowed to compete when his family filed a lawsuit against the New Mexico Athletic Association (NMAA) and won a temporary restraining order that allowed Nieto to compete.
Now Nieto’s parents are speaking out about their decision to have their son play in the game, and the broader impact it has on the concussion and head trauma debate in America. In an interview with The Washington Post, the Nieto family didn’t mince words.
“That’s the bogey-man blanket they’re throwing in sports now,” Peter Nieto, Shawn’s father, told the Post’s Rick Maese about concussion fears. … “We’re not rookies. We know what a concussion is.”
Essentially, the Nieto family’s argument is that Shawn didn’t actually suffer a full concussion; he just displayed possible concussion symptoms immediately after suffering absorbing a big hit. The family scheduled an appointment with their own doctor the day after the state semifinal, and that doctor evaluated Nieto and found that he exhibited, “normal cognitive ability.” Yet, because the school’s medical personnel had ruled Nieto suffered a possible concussion, NMAA protocol insisted that he had to remain on the sidelines. The evidence provided by the Nieto’s own doctor proved crucial in gaining the ability to play for Shawn Nieto, but that came before the doctor herself rescinded her own decision and accused the family of hiding salient details about their son’s injury at the time of examination.
For their part, the family insists they did what was best for their son, which was in direct contravention of what the state and concussions experts have asked others to do.
“This concussion law is just one size fits all,” Erica Nieto told Maese of New Mexico’s statute. “It’s expected to fit every situation, and it really does not allow for how to address a conflict — how do you get an independent evaluation? There’s no wiggle room at all, and I think there needs to be.”