Delaware wants to cover more kids with concussion rules

 Concord High School begins its home game against Middletown. (Elana Gordon/WHYY)

Concord High School begins its home game against Middletown. (Elana Gordon/WHYY)

Sports, health and education leaders in Delaware want to get a better handle on preventing and managing head injuries among students. They say current rules aren’t enough.

A concussion may occur in sports or every day activities when the head experiences a jolt, which then alters brain function.

At the urging of the state’s interscholastic athletic association, Delaware enacted a law in 2011, mandating that any high school or middle school athlete with a suspected concussion be removed from play. That student must get cleared by a doctor before returning.

Jane Crowley, a neuropsychologist at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, says research is showing that concussions, especially at a young age, can affect long-term cognitive functions if not treated properly.

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“The whole idea of maintaining with as much vigor as possible the developmental integrity of the brain is absolutely primary,” said Crowley. “The brain is going through massive developmental changes throughout childhood and early adulthood.”

Crowley and others in the state’s brain injury community convened a statewide youth concussion summit in May. The group concluded that Delaware’s current youth concussion rules fall short. They only pertain to school-sponsored teams, not Little League or community-sponsored teams.

Crowley, state health and education officials and others, are gathering at a Brandywine High School in Wilmington, Delaware on Wednesday to outline a new plan for the state. It includes three main components, according to a memo from the group:

• Establish a uniform documentation protocol between the medical community and the schools, for both sports and non-sports related concussions.

• Develop a training program for healthcare providers focused on the diagnosis and management of concussions. Consider statutory change that would require physicians who manage concussion to complete approved training in diagnosis, management and return to school and sports activity.

• Establish a Youth Sports Advisory Council to address education and regulation of community, recreational and travel sports programs.

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