In preparation for the state's updated concussion law that goes into effect in November, athletic trainers have launched the first Concussion Awareness Month happening right now.
Concussions can happen in almost every sport. The focus in the past has been college and high school level athletes, but now the state is addressing these dangers at an earlier age.
Oklahoma was one of the first states to enact concussion protocols in 2010. When an athlete gets a concussion, they have to sit out of their sport until they are cleared by a medical professional. The law does not, however, currently outline specifics of that time in between.
Jeff McKibbin is the University of Central Oklahoma’s graduate athletic training program director and a member of the Oklahoma Athletic Trainers’ Association.
“It does leave a little bit of a gap for people to know," said McKibbin. "What do you do after an athlete is held out? How long should they be held out? Who should they see?”
As part of the new law starting Nov. 1, the Oklahoma Department of Health will mandate that every school district and youth sports program trains coaches, officials and parents along with athletes so that everyone knows the signs of concussions and what to do. For the first time, the law will define an athlete as 7th grade and up.
“We just always think that they’re young and versatile and just kind of bounce up and go, but they’re actually more at risk,” said McKibbin.
The Oklahoma Athletic Trainers' Association launched the first ever Concussion Awareness Month this October on Facebook and Twitter, educating the public about the new laws ahead of Nov. 1. Also, the Concussion Connection website profiles former athletes and their experiences, aiming to slowly change the stigma of sports culture.
“A lot of time there’s a false sense of immortality and we think that oh, we’ll be fine or sometimes it’s the macho thought," McKibbin said.
Members of the OATA say they hope the laws continue to develop with new research and help kids in the long-run.