Probably no one tracks concussions among young athletes in the United States more closely than Dawn Comstock, and in many ways, she’s encouraged by what she sees.
It’s now less common for a player whose head has collided violently with a ball, a wall, the ground or another player to return to competition right away. It’s now more common for him or her to get medical attention.
But Comstock, an epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health, is frustrated by stubborn gaps between truly safe behavior and the status quo. She told me that more than half of the high schools with football teams don’t have a full-time athletic trainer, so there’s no immediately available person with the specific mission of preventing and treating injuries.
There are also sports other than football — and trauma other than concussions — that don’t attract nearly the vigilance they should, she added. Above all, there’s an enduringly strange, dangerous relationship between parents and sports, specifically between parents and coaches.