High school softball rules were changed this weekend to protect players who may have had a concussion.
The National Federation of High School State Associations has recommended that all sports adopt a rule that requires any player who shows signs or symptoms of a concussion to be removed immediately from competition or practice and not be allowed to return until cleared by a health care professional.
Among the signs and symptoms of concussions are loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems.
The Softball Rules Committee approved the new rule for the 2010-11 season.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association already has the same rule for all sports at its member schools.
Que Tucker, the deputy commissioner of the NCHSAA, said the national rule puts more emphasis on concussion awareness, especially in softball.
"We've had our concussion rule in place since the fall of 2008," Tucker said. "Anything that raises awareness of the seriousness of concussion, like the national rule change, is a good thing, though.
"Having the national rule shows the importance of getting head injuries cared for properly."
Concussions are traumatic brain injuries. When the brain is shaken or jarred, the blow can affect brain function.
There is no cure for a concussion except rest.
Most concussions heal with rest in less than two weeks and normal brain function returns, but concussions can cause serious long-term medical problems.
For example, The New & Observer reported recently that Holly Springs sophomore Ashley Lindsay has been told not to play softball or other sports after receiving at least three concussions, two while playing softball, in the past 18 months.
Congress has held a series of hearings on the effects of concussions.