All schools subject to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) rules are required, by state law, to have their student-athletes and their parents/guardians, coaches, athletic directors, school nurses, and physicians learn about the consequences of head injuries and concussions through training programs and written materials. The law requires that athletes and their parents/guardians inform their coaches about prior head injuries at the beginning of the season. If a student-athlete becomes unconscious during a game or practice, the law now mandates taking the student out of play or practice, and requires written certification from a licensed medical professional for “return to play.”
Required Concussion Training for Parents and Student Athletes
The second on-line course is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To learn more about this online course, click here.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is an alteration of mental status resulting from the brain being jolted inside of the skull due to a blow to the head or body. It is one of the most complicated injuries faced by medical professionals as the signs and symptoms are not always straightforward and the effects and severity of the injury can be difficult to determine. Among the symptoms associated with concussion are: headache, dizziness, confusion, amnesia, nausea, and disorientation. Loss of consciousness occurs in less than ten percent of all injuries and is not an indicator of concussion severity. Following an injury, the athlete may also experience other difficulties such as sensitivity to light and sound, forgetfulness, fatigue and emotional changes such as anxiety or depression.
Most athletes who sustain a concussion can fully recover as long as the brain has had time to heal before sustaining another hit; however, relying only on an athlete’s self-report of symptoms to determine injury recovery is inadequate as many student athletes are not aware of the signs and symptoms of injury, the severity concussive injuries pose or they may feel pressure from coaches, parents/guardians, teammates or others to return to play as quickly as possible. One or more of these factors will likely result in under-diagnosing the injury and a premature return to play. Research has shown that young concussed athletes who return to play before their brain has healed are highly vulnerable to more prolonged post-concussion syndrome or, in rare cases, a catastrophic neurological injury known as Second Impact Syndrome. Therefore, Avon Middle-High School encourages the following care when an athlete sustains a concussion in a school-sponsored sporting event:
- When any injury occurs, the injured athlete should promptly report the injury to the coach, parent, and school nurse.
- When a concussion occurs, the injured athlete should visit the local hospital emergency room or review his/her condition with his/her primary care physician to ensure there is not a need for emergency medical care.
- Communication is vital. Subsequently a care team consisting of the injured athlete’s primary care physician and parents/guardians along with the school nurse, teachers, head coach and athletic director should monitor the symptoms of injury.
- Engage the injured athlete in a battery of tests that include a combination of self-report symptoms, balance and neuro-cognitive testing. The combined assessment will provide a more sensitive and objective evaluation of the effects of the concussion that will help better determine when it is safe for the athlete to return to play.
- The injured athlete will not be allowed to return to play or practice until a doctor authorizes his/her return to play.