More than seven million student-athletes will play high school sports in 2013, according to National Federation of State High Schools, the 24th straight year that high school sports participation has risen.
While a major concern going into the fall season revolves around concussions, that concern isn’t just felt on the football field.
Female high school athletes had a higher rate of concussions than that of males between 2008-2010, according to the American Journal of Sports Medicine. Girl’s soccer was also second overall in concussion rates amongst males and females, falling slightly behind football.
New York was one of several states to act on those alarming numbers in 2011, when governor Andrew Cuomo signed the “Concussion Management and Awareness Act.” Paul Lasinski, the head trainer at Harborfields High School in Suffolk County, was one of several people who helped shape the new concussion policy.
“Private, parochial and charter schools can adopt a policy, but public schools must adopt a policy,” Lasinski said. “This is how they should handle concussions from the time of the player gets a concussion to the time where he/she can return to play.”
The guidelines set in the act are very similar to other state mandates regarding concussions: permission slips signed by parents, removal from practice or games on the first signs of a concussion and procedural steps to clear any player back to “on field” play. New York, however, took it one step further in that it requires teachers, trainers and coaches to take, and pass, a biannual concussion clinic.
Soon after the act went into effect Donald Douglas, executive director of the New York City Public School Athletic League (PSAL), sent a memorandum to principals and athletic directors saying, “concussion management is our primary health concern.” The PSAL mandated that anyone involved in fall sports for the upcoming 2013 season would have to complete the training by June and also have the on-line “Heads Up” certification complete before they could assume any of their duties. The PSAL management steps require coaches on the sideline to identify the student-athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion and to have him escorted off the field; the concussed athletes aren’t permitted to return to any type of physical activity for 24 hours.
Margie Feinberg, spokesperson for the New York City Department of Education, told the Sports Report via email that the only sport that will act differently is football. During football games there will be a doctor on the sideline to determine if the player has a concussion, but clearance to return will be the same as all other PSAL sports.
Soccer officials are also on the lookout for head injuries
Alan Wharton, president of the NYC Soccer Officials Association, said that while the referees aren’t required by the new state law to take mandated classes yet, concussions are something refs are always aware of during play.
“It’s not a ramped problem in soccer, but it does happen especially when two people go up for a ball and bang their heads together,” Wharton said. “The refs will always look out for it, and if they see a kid unconscious, woozy and wobbly, they will stop play and send them off the field to get looked at.”
According to the PSAL concussion management steps, the only way for a player to get back on the field is through a doctor who determines the athlete has no post-concussive symptoms. The history of the patient is also important: two or more concussions in a three-year span will require clearance to go through a concussion specialist.
“Return to play is still evolving, just as the diagnosis of concussions,” Lasinski said. “Right now it’s one day. Next year it could be two.”
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