2012-07-17 / Front Page

Area Football Coaches Already Taking Concussion Precautions Ahead Of New Indiana State Law

New State Legislation Fails To Include Youth Football Athlete Injuries
by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer

Indiana high schools must now be more vigilant about ensuring student athletes who sustain concussions don’t return to action until they are medically cleared under a new state law which took effect July 1st.

IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox said it shouldn’t be a major change for most Indiana high schools. He said the IHSAA began a concussion protocol at the start of the 2010-2011 school year, calling on schools to remove from a game athletes who exhibit symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion. It also said they needed to be cleared by an appropriate health care professional before they return to play.

Concussions are a form of traumatic brain injury and occur when a hard blow jars the brain against the skull. Injuries sometimes lead to permanent mental and physical damage, even death on rare occasions.

An estimated 5.4 million children ages seven through 17 participated in the sport in 2011.

At Owen Valley High School, athletic trainer Allie Young serves on the varsity football staff and is in charge of all medical issues, including concussions.

“As soon as symptoms occur, she takes control of the situation and I pretty much stay out of it,” veteran Owen Valley High School head varsity football coach Duane Potts said. “We also have a team doctor, Dr. Hummel from IU Health, who the kids must be cleared by. So between the team doctor and the athletic trainer, I leave it up to them because they are the people with medical knowledge and training to deal with that. I’ve had this system in place for quite a while.”

The new Indiana law covers only high school sports because there is no governing body for middle school sports or youth sports to oversee its implementation. The Indiana High School Athletic Association has been charged with making sure high schools know the law.

At the junior high level, local athletes on the gridiron are watched with a cautious eye.

“We have a parent meeting during the first practice and discuss symptoms of concussion and what we’ll do to address it,” Owen Valley Middle School head football coach George Brinson said. “Unfortunately with middle school, there isn’t usually a trainer on site during games. During practices, we have access to the trainer from the high school, so we have to be a little more aware of the symptoms. The big thing is we’ll sit them down until they can talk to a doctor. Some schools do provide a trainer during games, but we don’t at our games, so it’s not worth it to send them back in (to the game) if there is any question at all. The hardest part about that is that if you get a competitive kid, he’s not going to tell you until after the game, because he’s afraid he’ll sit down. It’s something we really have to watch.”

At Cloverdale High School, recently-hired athletic trainer Anastasia Berkley has joined the staff full-time.

“She actually trains (the high school squad) too, in terms of signs and symptoms of concussions. She does a great job of making sure myself and the rest of the staff know what to look for,” CHS head varsity football coach John Butler said. “If a coach believes a kid, whether it’s in practice or a game, is experiencing symptoms of a concussion, we have her check them. If she thinks that’s the case, she’s the law on our team. She’ll recommend seeing a doctor or going to the emergency room. I agree with the law, because it is a serious situation.”

For the Cloverdale Youth Football League, Butler is taking steps to ensure the youngest players are protected as well.

“Anastasia works for Hendricks County Regional Health, so we’re trying to work her schedule to where she can come out on Saturdays and be present during our little league home games,” he said. “I have coaching clinics with the middle school and youth league coaches every year to update them on football stuff and new to the agenda is the concussion law, signs and symptoms. The plan is to have her do the same thing with the youth league staff as she does with the high school staff. If it seems like they are experiencing concussion symptoms, then she will be on-site to deal with that. Also, my coaches and I will set-up a rotation so that one of us will be present during those home games on the sidelines.”

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