A recent rash of playground injuries has prompted a Long Island school superintendent to issue a complete ban on balls. The ban prohibits hard athletic balls used during soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse and other sports. The school district also banned performing cartwheels or playing tag unless there is adequate adult supervision. Only Nerf-type balls are permitted during recess periods.
Since children usually don’t have padding and protective equipment available during school recess periods, the use of hard athletic balls could constitute a threat to their safety and health. According to recent reports, recess injuries have included mostly abrasions, contusions or bruises, plus more serious injuries like head injuries and concussions.
The competing interests of the school–as well as the parents–have brought the issue of safety to the forefront, tempered with the idea that children need to have fun and gratifying activities during school recess periods.
Guarding Against Concussions
Youth athletic leagues are more closely examining the risks associated with contact sports for two reasons:
- Recent data indicates that youth concussions are more serious than those sustained as an adults.
- Research demonstrates the cumulative effects of repetitive concussions and head trauma.
The school superintendent’s decision to place a ban on balls likely reflects this heightened concern, which has been demonstrated in a more aggressive approach to the management of children’s concussions in the last several years.
In fact, the American Academy of Neurology recently updated concussion guidelines to recommend to immediately remove teens and children with suspected concussions from competition, and not allow a return to play the same day. Children need a full neurological assessment by a qualified medical professional, along with a specified period of rest–both physical and mental–before parents and coaches consider a return to play. The academy’s policy change is a departure from older guidelines, which did not mandate that a child be removed from play after a suspected concussion.
An outright ban on balls during activities like soccer, baseball, football and lacrosse is not called for, but adequate supervision of students during recess is critical to ensure safety.
Since there will always be a risk of head injuries and concussions associated with sports-related activities, administering rules of safe play, along with the use of padding and protective gear–whenever possible–would help to reduce the incidence of serious injuries.
Do you have children? What do you think of banning hard athletic-type balls during recess? Share your thoughts in the comments.