Oregon lawmakers concerned about the potential for long-term injury from sports-related concussions passed a law in 2009. Since then, school sports coaches and trainers have been required to follow strict return-to-play strategies to make sure athletes with head injuries don’t return to sports too soon.
What have we learned from these protocols since 2009? That’s among the questions this series aims to answer.
Rattled: Oregon’s Concussion Discussion is a joint project of InvestigateWest, the Pamplin Media Group and the Agora Journalism Center, made possible in part by grants from Meyer Memorial Trust and the Center for Cooperative Media. Researcher Mark G. Harmon from the Portland State University Criminology & Criminal Justice Department provides statistical review and analysis. The New York-based Solutions Journalism Network provided training in solutions-based techniques and support to participating journalists.
David Kracke is a personal injury lawyer at the Nichols Law Group in Portland and a co-author of Max’s Law, Oregon’s landmark legislation aimed at reducing the impact of brain injuries among Oregon student athletes. In mid-October, Lee van der Voo, managing director of InvestigateWest and John Schrag, executive editor of the Pamplin Media Group, talked to Kracke about the history of the law.
Earlier this year, Oregon lawmakers amended Max’s Law, expanding the definition of “health professionals,” who can clear athletes with concussions to return to play. The new definition includes chiropractors, naturopaths, physical therapists and occupational therapists. The chief executive of Providence Health & Services, Doug Koekkoek, argued for including language that clarified that “a clinician should not provide medical release after a suspected concussion if it is not within the providers scope of practice.”
Also, the Oregon Medical Association, Oregon Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, and Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons of Oregon penned a joint statement declaring “it is important that a neutral party clears the student to play, rather than a person who is employed by the school or the athletes’ team, as such a person may be subject to outside pressures.”
That argument led to the omission of school athletic trainers from the list of medical professionals qualified to allow concussed students to return to play.
Ready. Set. Hike: Nearly two decades ago, during a high school football game, a 17-year-old quarterback named Max Conradt lined up under center and began a snap count. Now, a namesake law protects student athletes from the kind of tragedy that unfolded for the Waldport, Oregon player.
Over the past six months, reporters working on a series about high school sports concussions in Oregon have made 235 requests for records — or rather, the same request 235 times. Oregon has one state law to govern how local jurisdictions handle public records. But the responses to this same request are wide and varied across the state.
The Oregon School Activities Association oversees everything from track meets to choir championships in Oregon. OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber and Assistant Director Brad Garrett sat with Lee van der Voo, of InvestigateWest, and John Schrag, of Pamplin Media Group, to talk about Rattled, the news groups’ collaborative investigation into Oregon high school concussions.
While we now know that football tops the list of concussion injuries per sport, the focus on football skews concussion discussions about other sports risks of concussion. We explore how to evaluate those risks alongside the benefits of physical activity for kids.
Sami Howard’s last concussion, captured by a student videographer, looks bad. But it’s the sound — something like a dropped bowling ball — that turned the crowd’s cheers into a low moan and then near-silence. A contested rebound. A fall to the ground, and Sami Howard’s life changed forever. The concussion was her fourth.
One in five American teens reports having suffered at least one concussion. For most students, it’s a relatively tame tale: a headache, some rest, and then back to a normal routine.
But for others, it’s a life-changing event. Reporters for Rattled: Oregon’s Concussion Discussion compile unique data on concussion injury from 238 public schools in Oregon. This series examines what they learned.
Reporters are looking for high school students interested in sharing their stories or digging up the truth about concussion risk in their schools or on their teams. Want to join Rattled: Oregon’s Concussion Discussion? Here’s how.