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Schools of Thought: Safety of injured athletes addressed

May 18, 2009
By BILL CAIN, The Leader-Herald

Washington state passed a law Thursday, reportedly the nation's toughest law regulating the return of high school athletes to the field of play after sustaining a concussion.

The new law requires concussed athletes receive approval from a licensed health care provider before returning. It also said the school districts must work with the state athletic association to create a means of educating coaches, parents and players about concussions and other head injuries.

This made me curious to see what we had in New York.

The New York State High School Athletic Association handed down a decision that each section should establish a concussion management team (CMT) to be a resource for member schools and encourage each school district to create its own concussion management team.

The schools' CMTs can include any or all of the following: a school physician, school nurse, athletic administrator, certified athletic trainer, school psychologist or any interested professional, according to the NYSHSAA. They are meant to keep all coaches and faculty up on concussion management protocol, liaise with the sectional concussion management team and help monitor the care of athletes with concussions and their return to their teams, among other duties.

Making sure the injured athletes are not returning to the the field of play before they are healthy enough to do so is one of the main functions of these CMTs in the schools.

According to outgoing Section II Safety Committee chairperson, Charlie Karker, all but two of New York's sections have already created their CMTs. Those final two are working on assmebling theirs.

Karker also is the athletic director at Fort Plain, so it is little surprise that school district already has three members of a CMT in place, probably the farthest along of all our local schools. They have a school doctor, school nurse and Karker (the AD) on the team. He said they plan to expand the team with more members in the near future.

This is nothing mandated by the NYSHSAA or the state legislature. Districts like Amsterdam that contract with athletic trainers from outside the district already have a system in place for dealing with head trauma. Still, forming a CMT is a good idea if a district can get enough people on board.

That may be the toughest part of putting together one of these CMTs at the district level. School districts are cutting staff and other costs, which means they already are asking the remaining employees to do more for the same pay.

If they can manage putting a team together, each district could benefit from its cooperation with the state athletic association. Even schools with athletic trainers would benefit because this program is built to assist and monitor not just athletes with concussions, but any student from the district with a concussion as they return to school and sometimes take a while to get back into the flow of things.

I know several local schools are working on getting a CMT assembled. I'm told some of them may be in place by the fall semester.

Hopefully, each school district recognizes the benefit of working with the state association on this project.



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