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Study: Youth leagues should have governing body to track injuries

PHOENIX — A Valley brain expert said research confirmed youth sports need a single governing body to oversee medical issues, especially concussions.

Dr. Javier Cardenas at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix said the study by the Institute of Medicine showed research and prevention of concussions in people younger than 21 falls far behind that of older adults.

Cardenas, a concussion expert and neurologist, said that’s largely because kids play sports before they enter high school.

“There’s no overall governing board for the younger groups like there are for higher levels,” Cardenas said. “Kids can go from one club sport and it’ll have one policy on concussions, then they’ll go to another sport and that will have an entirely different policy on concussions.”

Cardenas used the Arizona Interscholastic Association as an example of a governing board that has a sports medical advisory committee and does an excellent job looking over the health of high school athletes.

Leagues for younger sports, however, lacked that type of centralized supervision.

“Not only is this a problem for research, but this is a problem for policy,” Cardenas said. “They lack general organization in order to have goals and objections that are common.”

The lack of a governing body also led to a lack of research: it’s harder to get large groups to study when most leagues average eight teams.

The study also showed high school athletes suffered concussions almost twice as often as collegiate athletes. Cardenas said that is partly because of the varying skill level that high school athletes have, which leads to more injuries.

The research for athletes below the high school level also confirmed the belief that the younger an athlete is, the longer it takes to recover from a concussion.

“A college or professional athlete typically has a shorter recovery time, taking a week or less on most occasions,” Cardenas said. “For the average adolescent, it’s typically 10 to 14 days.”