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Student athlete injuries often go unreported to agency

The KVUE Defenders found few middle and high schools are required to file weekly injury reports to the University Interscholastic League.
Houston area Caleb Williams suffered a concussion during a football game in September and it wiped his memory.

TEXAS -- At 13-years-old, Logan Wyatt towered over his teammates at Giddings Middle School. He knew how to play every position on his football team.

"He was the star athlete," his mom, Jessica Ryburn, said. 

These days, he spends most of his time in physical therapy at Dell Children's Hospital rather than playing the game he loves.

According to a lawsuit filed by his mother against the school district in October, Wyatt sustained a serous concussion while taking part in an off-season drill last year. It happened when a larger student "lunged forward head-first, spearing himself into Logan's chest" knocking him unconscious when his head hit the tile floor.

Since the incident, his mother said Wyatt has difficulty seeing and is dizzy all the time. He often vomits during brief car rides. He also can't attend the school pep rallies he once enjoyed because the sound and colors make him nauseous. 

Ryburn said her son used to be an honor student. He's now failing ninth grade.

"My son wanted to go to college before this and now he doesn't even want to go to school anymore because he can't keep up," said Ryburn.

According to the lawsuit, other students were injured during similar drills in the past. That may be difficult to prove because the school district doesn't track all of its sports injuries. That's because the state doesn't require it.

Giddings Independent School District said it cannot respond to the lawsuit or confirm whether other students were injured during similar drills. 

"The district maintains all injury reports as required by law. I wish I could say more because there is more I could say and would like to say, disputing the lawyers account of the injury and how it happened," said Giddings ISD Superintendent Roger Dees.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wyatt is one of almost 200,000 kids that will be treated each year in emergency rooms for head injuries sustained while playing sports.

With all the talk about concussions in the media and the medical community, one might think finding stats for how many kids get hurt playing sports in Texas would be easy to find.

It's not. There is no reliable count of the injuries happening in Texas high school sports. Nobody in Texas keeps track of exactly how many kids get hit in the head, suffer a heat stroke or twist an ankle.

The University Interscholastic League (UIL) oversees all junior high and high school sports at Texas public schools. This Texas state agency does collect some injury data, but not a lot.

Only high school football injuries are required to be reported to UIL, but not every school is required to comply. KVUE's media partner, KHOU TV in Houston, uncovered only about one in five schools are required to file weekly injury reports and then in only one sport, football.

All other grades and sports – from baseball to soccer to basketball – are not required to report any injuries to the UIL. "Frustrates me a lot," explained Ryburn when she learned about the reporting system. 

The medical community wants changes to UIL's injury reporting system. 

Dr. Martha Pyron runs a sports medicine clinic in Austin. She also works with University of Texas athletes and is required to report all injuries to the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Doing so helps her identify which plays and drills injure athletes the most. She and other doctors have encouraged the UIL and Texas public schools to do the same for years.

"I think this data can be useful for not just the medical professionals, the coaches, the training staff, but also the parents. You know, what are they potentially putting their child at risk for at one facility versus another and one sport versus another," Pyron said.

The UIL is now considering changes. 

"Well, we certainly believe we need a new way of collecting injury data to provide more medical value from it," said Jamey Harrison, the deputy director at the UIL.  

Over the past three months, Harrison said the UIL has been trying to create a tracking system with the help of two research institutions. One would track concussions, the other institute would track all other injuries. 

"We would like to eventually get to a point where we collect all injuries, all activities, whether they're athletics or not, from all schools," said Harrison. 

Harrison doesn't know whether the injury reports will be available to the public, citing student privacy concerns. He's not even sure whether the way the UIL collects injury data now is legal. 

"Is the manner at which we're even collecting even appropriate? Is it any way useful?" Harrison asked.

Wyatt said he hopes the information is public to help other students. "I don't understand why we don't report our injuries to the state."

Harrison hopes to have some sort of tracking system in place by next fall. 

What Can You Do?

Do you think all student athlete injuries should be counted and tracked? KVUE has created a letter you can email directly to the UIL to let them know you support change. Click on this link to send an email to the UIL. It will open up an email with the letter already filled out. All you need to do is put your name at the bottom of the email and click send.

If the link does not work above, email the following text to info@uiltexas.org with the subject "UIL Rules Change."

Dear Texas UIL:

After watching a recent story on KVUE News, I have a proposed rule change that I would like to see the University Interscholastic League (UIL) implement. Specifically, I believe that the UIL should require ALL member schools to report ALL concussions and injuries during ALL athletic events and practices. Additionally, I would like to see this information compiled by individual school districts and publically accessible online so that both parents and medical professionals can access it.

After learning about UIL's current injury reporting system, I am concerned about the safety of student athletes in Texas. I believe it is in the best interest of our students to track injuries in all regular season, as well as postseason events.

This is the only way to get an accurate picture of concussion rates and all injuries that are happening in student sports in Texas.




KHOU in Houston contributed to this report.