Reporting Jim Armstrong
BOSTON (CBS) – It is a tough home video to watch: 17-year-old Kaela Murphy is going for the rebound when she slips and falls, crashing her head on the gym floor last February.
It was the fifth concussion in less than three years for the high school senior and varsity athlete.
“There’s (sic) very few visible symptoms of a concussion,” Murphy explained, “so it’s hard for people to understand because they’re looking for proof that there’s really a problem.”
That became a problem in and of itself. The North Shore athlete, who also plays volleyball and lacrosse, ended up missing close to a year of school recovering from her various concussions. That created a mountain of missed school work that she had to tackle with a badly injured brain.
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“It’s extremely frustrating to sit in front of a subject that used to be so easy for me and to struggle so much after having all the concussions,” she said.
Kaela is headed to college in the fall, but right now she’s an advocate. With her mom and dad looking on, she testified at Wednesday morning’s Public Health Council meeting, hoping to convince board members to give teeth to current laws protecting student athletes.
The PHC unanimously approved updates to the state’s current laws protecting student-athletes.
From now on, when a student gets a head injury or has a suspected concussion, he or she is supposed to be immediately pulled off the field or court. The student will not be allowed to play, or even to practice, until cleared by a doctor.
There is also now mandatory concussion training for any medical professional with the power to send kids back into the game.
Although 16 other states have similar laws, “Massachusetts is the first state that’s taking on the very hard and difficult task” of providing necessary legal infrastructure for its law, according to Boston University Medical School’s Dr. Robert Cantu.
“Obviously we don’t want to jeopardize our children’s futures, so it’s really essential that proper concussion and head trauma management occur at all levels, but especially for our children,” said Dr. Cantu, who is a nationally-recognized expert in sports-related head trauma.
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For her part, Kaela Murphy is happy to have played a small role in getting the new regulations passed.
“You can’t get rid of concussions but you can decrease the risk and increase the knowledge so that people are prepared if it happens,” she said.
That awareness extends beyond doctors and also includes students who might want to keep playing after being injured as well as the over-zealous parents who might push their kids to do just that.
“I wish I necessarily didn’t have to go through it,” Murphy said, “but I’m glad that it will pay off for other student athletes and they won’t have to go through what I went through.”