Medical professionals, high school officials, parents, coaches, and student athletes in communities west of Boston, Massachusetts are working together to bring more awareness to concussions in high school sports such as hockey, football, and cheerleading. According to a Boston Globe article, late last year, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees reported that multiple concussions can lead to catastrophic brain injury and swelling, as well as prolonged post-concussion syndrome.
The group issued recommendations for safety and prevention of concussions, and they propose computerized cognitive testing both before each season begins and after a concussion to monitor the healing process on a more subtle level.
While some schools have implemented a form of computerized testing, other schools use handwritten methods of measuring and tracking student’s cognitive functioning after concussions. Schools and parents have reason to be concerned due to the severe nature of any brain injury, including concussions, which are common enough that they are often not taken seriously.
A spokeswoman for the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts in Westborough wants to challenge the tradition of cheering on players who join in the game immediately after getting a serious head injury. She believes that current policies on concussions do not do enough to educate and protect students who are at risk of traumatic brain and spinal cord injury in addition to concussion.
High school athletes in Massachusetts are currently required to have their doctor’s or a trainer’s permission before resuming activity in contact sports after having a concussion. Some medical professionals recommend staying out of any sports activity for at least a week after a concussion or head injury.
A spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association said that an attentive coach and a well trained medical staff can prove just as effective in preventing serious long-term harm in student concussions. The MIAA and the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts push for a well rounded plan of action including coaches, medical staff, parents, teachers, fellow students, and lawmakers.
Coaches must be able to react immediately when a head injury occurs in the field. A well trained medical staff must be alerted to take over from there. Finally, fellow students, parents, and teachers must pay attention to students who have had concussions to observe any differences in behavior.
A combination of high tech computerized cognitive testing programs and preventative measures such as safety policy and public education will likely improve the chances of a successful outcome for high school athletes who suffer concussions and brain injuries.