By Lindsay Carey
School officials are making concussion education and awareness mandatory for student athletes and parents this fall.
Eric Swallow, director of athletics for Southington schools, briefed the school board at a recent Board of Education meeting. The focus on concussions comes from an upcoming state mandate.
“The State legislature has mandated that by the academic calendar of 2015-16 every student athlete as a part of their medical eligibility will have to read and sign off on a concussion education sign and symptoms document,” said Swallow.
A double sided document informs parents of the new law, the definition of a concussion, signs and symptoms, the guidelines for return to participation, concussion management requirements, and medical clearance protocol for any student athlete who sustains a concussion or head injury.
Swallow is trying to get this document mandated for Southington student athletes and parents by this fall.
“I want to get it out there,” Swallow said, at the July 10 meeting. “I don’t want to wait, because I’ve got to start the learning curve.”
According to Swallow, in 2010 the Connecticut state legislature mandated that all coaches have a CEU in concussion management signs and symptoms.
Now, the law will be that students and parents be aware of the signs and symptoms before the season starts.
In order to participate in sports, athletes must have in their medical emergency sports participation permission form, the student parent concussion education plan, state of Connecticut department of education health assessment record to be eligible to play this fall.
“This is something that I’m trying to institute for this coming fall, we will be meeting with all of the individual teams when they have their parent meetings,” said Swallow.
Swallow and two athletic trainers have been certified in concussion management and will rotate to attend all the mandatory parent meetings. This will ensure that everyone is aware of new law and that the signed form will be mandatory for participation in interscholastic sports.
“It’s another vehicle to protect student athletes from a safety perspective,” said Swallow.
He also addressed the misconception about football helmets and concussions.
Swallow explained that the helmet may not be to blame for a concussion. According to him, the brain just has to get rattled. An athlete doesn’t even have to hit the ground or run into someone.
“Your head can get jarred and your brain will reverberate against the side of your skull and that can cause a level of concussion or signs and symptoms,” said Swallow. “A concussion isn’t just getting knocked out in the third round, it can come in stages.”
However, he did assure that the football helmets at the high school have been replaced and all helmets are 2010 or better.
School board member Patricia Queen, who worked with Swallow in the past to try to educate parents, thanked the athletic director for his leadership with the initiative.
“I think that with the state getting involved the awareness is greater,” said Queen. “Parents do need to learn and I think that’s why this is so important that they’re going to the parent meetings, because [parents] can take steps early on to alleviate and mitigate he severity of the concussion if they know what to do.”
The middle schools in town are under the same medical eligibility parameters as the high school, so Swallow is trying to get it mandated for middle school athletes as well.
He has already met with the two athletic managers the middle schools and plans on communicating with those principals to get the concussion education form mandated.