Concussion management in pediatric patients – ethical concerns

Sport, Ethics and Philosophy:1-15 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Collision sports pose a high risk of concussion. How to respond to this risk is more ethically complex when considering children and adolescents due to a) incomplete evidence regarding the impact of concussion on developing brains, b) physiological and social vulnerability, and c) the young person’s reliance on proxy decision-makers, usually parents. There is also a lack of clear definitions of (a) collision sport (vs. contact sport) and (b) what constitutes a child or adolescent. We consider whether parents should be free to allow their children/adolescents to play contact or collision sport. The article analyses the harms and benefits of collision sport and methods of determining risk, before outlining our support for the precautionary principle. We then consider whether the ‘best interests’ or ‘right to an open future’ framework ought to be applied to the issue of childhood participation in collision sport. Rather than supporting a ban of child/adolescent participation in collision sport, we argue that permissibility should be decided on a sport-by-sport basis. Moreover, we apply the ‘Accountability of Reasonableness’ framework to ensure that sound ethical values guide and support protections for this vulnerable group in the absence of high-quality evidence.

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