A 14-year-old girl who hit her head on the court during a high school basketball game decided there was no reason a little pain should keep her from playing. Mikayla Wilson went back out on the floor and continued to score for the Liberty Lancers. But three weeks later, Mikayla can't remember her friends' names, and she's suddenly writing with her other hand.
She's suffering from amnesia from the knock on the noggin. Doctors say that single bump on the head caused a concussion, and when Mikayla went back out on the floor to keep playing, she only made her condition worse. I cannot blame the child here. This is a high school coaching problem. Period.
It's tough out there for female athletes. The boys get all the fans. And the cheerleaders. And the money. And if you dare to show a little bit of weakness, there's always someone willing to remind you that you "play like a girl." It's no wonder Mikayla shook off a little pain in her head and went back out on the court.
But can we take a step back here? This is high school. There is no reason why an injured kid should go back on a court. Or a field or a diamond for that matter. ANY injured player. Coaches need to know when to say "oh hell no," no matter how hard those kids are protesting.
We're seeing immense pressure on the professional level for coaching staff to take injuries more seriously. The NFL in particular got another wake-up call this month with the suicide of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, a man suffering from a degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by his many years of traumatic blows to the head. Last year, the league began enforcing in earnest its illegal hit rules, to cut down on flagrant fouls that cause serious injury.
It's still not perfect, but those men are making thousands if not millions of dollars in exchange for the risks they take on each time they trot out onto a field. A few high school kids may be doing it for a college scholarship, but the bulk are doing it simply for the love of the game. They get nothing else in return, certainly not enough to cover the immense risk to their developing bodies.
Mikayla's case reminds us this isn't just a football issue. And frankly, it's not just a head injury either. Consider a sprained knee that turns completely immobile because a player insisted she could walk it off on the soccer field.
Don't get me wrong. I love high school sports, and I'll fight for kids' right to go kick some butt on the court any day of the week. They provide discipline, fun, exercise, need I go on? But can we keep in mind that these are kids? A 14-year-old girl isn't going to want to look like a wuss. She's going to say she's just fine and dandy, so put me in, coach!
There needs to be a one-size-fits-all rule that protects coaches from being accused of being too mean or too soft by parents. If you get injured, you're sidelined for the rest of the game. Period. It's not fun, but it would prevent a 14-year-old girl from trying to relearn the names of the important people in her life.
Who do you think should get the say on an injured teen going back on the court: the player or the coach?
Image via Andersedin/Flickr