Delaware health and school officials are taking a proactive approach to better document, treat and monitor student athletes who receive concussions on the field.
Following the Delaware Youth Concussion Summit held earlier this year, an action plan was developed for more concise health practices regarding sports head injuries.
“The action plan is focusing on uniform documentation protocol between our medical community, and the schools,” explained Rita Landgraf, secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “Establishment of a training program for our health care providers, focused on assessment, diagnosis and management of concussions.”
Additionally, Landgraf said a youth sports advisory committee will be established to address education and regulation of community, recreation and travel sports programs.
In 2011, the state passed a law to better inform parents and coaches about the effects of concussions along with additional training on how to spot concussions. Students are also required to receive medical clearance before returning to the field after a concussion.
She also believes there needs to more consistency in how concussions are measured. “Some teams and leagues follow the conservative approach embraced by high school, college and professional sports of holding back athletes that have suffered a concussion or concussion like symptoms. Some teams and leagues play it a little looser. Consistent attention to player health and safety remain paramount. Clearly this is an issue that has the attention of everyone,” Landgraf said.
Rich Hill, a senior football player at Brandywine High School has had two concussions during his high school football career.
“When I took the hit, I knew it was something because I wasn’t feeling right, but I pushed for another play or something,” said Hill. “At the half, I went into the locker room, I kind of sat back and I said ‘should I say anything or should I play’ and I noticed it was a serious matter, so I was like I might as well speak up now or end up hurting myself for the rest of my life.”
Landgraf added that football is the leading cause of concussions for boys while soccer is the leading cause of concussions of girls.
“Studies have shone that young people can take longer to recover from concussions than adults do and when someone has suffered from a concussion, the odds of getting a second concussion increase, especially if they haven’t fully recovered from the earlier one,” added Landgraf.
The Center for Disease Control estimates about 135,000 athletes involved in youth sports are taken to hospitals each year to be checked for brain injury.
Last year, the Brandywine School District implemented impact testing at its three high schools for students involved in high risk sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball and wrestling.
BHS Principal Wally Waite said the programs plays like a videogame and measures the student’s concentration, speed, memory and reaction time.
“This information we gain from testing is invaluable as it can help a student’s physician, school nurses along with our athletic trainers,” explained Waite, “(and) determine the severity of an injury and establish a plan for a student’s safe return to school and sports.”
Superintendent Mark Holodick added that the safety of students is the districts top priority.
“We are not only as a state, and a DIAA (Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association) agency, now as a district in the athletic community taking concussions very very seriously and so we are addressing them more appropriately and professionally when they occur and equally important and more importantly we are taking measures to prevent them,” said Holodick.