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As both an Athletic Trainer and a sports official, I was very pleased to see some of the changes that the state of Michigan is implementing regarding concussion management.

Here is a link to a news article covering this story. Here is a link to Michigan’s protocol for handling players with concussions.

In the past, the language regarding an athlete and their participation in a contest after sustaining a concussion was always a little gray. The new language helps to take all of the ambiguity out of the decision making process.

I particularly like the language:

“Any athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion, or balance problems) shall be immediately removed from the contest and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health care professional.”

In the instances where a health care professional is not available, this clearly lays out to coaches that if a players exhibits any of these signs, they are to be withheld from competition.

I am unfamiliar with other states regulations but the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) has measures for monitoring players that are removed from a contest resulting from a concussion. A report is filed to the State of Michigan following the contest in which an athlete sustained a concussion. The athlete must receive physician clearance to return to participation and if this clearance is not received and an athlete participates, they will be treated as an ineligible player and the contest is subject to forfeit. This is particularly harsh language but certainly drives home the point that any lenience on this issue will not be tolerated.

While many of us still want to see a Certified Athletic Trainer at every school and contest, the likelihood of this happening any time soon is simply not reality. However, I do commend national and state associations for taking concussions seriously and doing what they can to help ensure the safety of high school athletes. The issue of concussions involves a “global effort” and requires involvement from physicians and athletic trainers, national and state associations, school administration, coaches, parents, and athletes. This is a great step in the right direction and I am very pleased the state of Michigan has adopted this new policy on concussion management.

Has your state adopted additional language in support of new federation rules? Has your state included severe penalties such as possible game forfeiture for schools that allow participation without medical release? Please share what your state and local associations are doing to help confront this issue.

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Hope everyone is having a great week. Here are some things I have come across lately that I wanted to share.

  • This post is being written bright and early in the morning. I prefer to get up earlier than later but last week I read a blog post by Mike Boyle that challenged me to get up earlier and make better use of my time. In his post, The Day in the Life, he lays out some of his points of success. Number 1 – get up early. He has the tip – “When the alarm goes off, get your feet on the ground”. It is a good read and if you are looking to accomplish more, there is just something about getting things done while the rest of the country sleeps.
  • Concussions have been all over the news of late. In reading some of the coverage and commentaries, I have heard a couple of new points that I have not heard in the past. The first came as a result of the testimony on Capitol Hill recently during the hearing on head injuries and concussions. Here is an excerpt from the article on ESPN.

Dr. Bennet Omalu is a co-Founder of the Brain Injury Research Institute at West Virginia University. He testified that children under 18 should be held out for three months following a concussion to lower the risk of irreversible brain damage.

“There is no such thing as a mild concussion,” he said. “Doctors are beginning to move away from that term. It’s a misnomer. It’s like saying there is mild cigarette smoking. If you are smoking a cigarette, it is bad.”

He added that the immediate absence of symptoms does not mean the brain is healed.

“Your brain will never forget the impact,” he said. “But just to give it time to balance itself, you need about three months.”

  • The other point of view regarding concussions that I read – and I have to paraphrase because I forget where the source came from (should have written it down – see the first bullet) but the recommendation was simply – no athletic trainers, then no football/wrestling/soccer/lacrosse. It was pretty simple. Schools are complaining about funding having athletic trainers due to cost. So the solution was simple – you can’t fund it, no problem – just don’t have these sports at your schools.

Obviously, concussions are a huge problem and our understanding of concussions (especially from the fan and parent angle) is pretty minimal. I just wanted to share a couple of recommendations that I have seen that perhaps fit “outside of the box” compared to what we normally would see regarding concussion recommendations. I think it is important – when faced with challenging situations – to look at all angles and solutions. I have this philosophy – Just because this is how we have always done things, it doesn’t mean it is right. We often need to change and reevaluate.

Anyway – have a great rest of the week – get up a little earlier, read a little more and keep on learning.

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