The N.C. High School Athletic Association will have two points of emphasis when it comes to concussions during the 2010-11 athletics year, education and identification, assistant commissioner M ark Dreibelbis says.
In addition to putting an emphasis on the facts about the head injury at its recent mandatory rules clinics for coaches, the NCHSAA is empowering its officials to send a player off the field who is exhibiting concussion-like symptoms.
Once on the sideline, the player must sit out at least one play to be evaluated by his coach and appropriate medical personnel, who will make a decision on whether or not a concussion was sustained.
“We’re telling the officials that if they see someone who may be exhibiting symptoms of not being cognitive, not being energetic, being confused, to take them to the sideline, tell them, ‘Coach take a look at No. 77’ or whoever,” Dreibelbis said.
In addition to those measures, a concussed player must sit out the rest of the game and have a licensed physician sign a “Re turn to Play Form,” under a rule that went into effect last season. Until that form is completed, a player is not allowed to practice or play in a game, Dreibelbis said.
The NFL made headlines in July when it mandated that all of its teams post a sign in their locker rooms detailing the effects of a concussion. Labeled as a “must read for NFL players,” the poster lists symptoms and facts about the brain injury, and it warns that repeated concussions “can change your life and your family’s life forever.”
“According to the (Center for Disease Control), ‘traumatic brain injury can cause a wide range of short- or long-term changes affecting thinking, sensation, language, or emotions,’ ” the sign re ads. “These changes may lead to problems with memory and communication, personality changes, as well as depression and the early onset of dementia.”
An NFL player is not allowed to return to a practice or a game if he shows any of several symptoms of a concussion.
A number of recent concussion studies also grabbed the NCHSAA’s attention. Dreibelbis, who teaches the mandatory rule clinics, said 63 .1 percent of the concussions that happen in football occur due to helmet-to-helmet contact, and that most of these head injuries can easily go undiagnosed.
“Only 3 .2 percent of people who are concussed lose consciousness,” Dreibelbis said. “I think the lay person thinks you need to be knocked out or at least lose it for a second to have a concussion, when obviously that’s the furthest thing from the truth.”
At the rules clinic, Dreibelbis emphasized eliminating illegal helmet contact — such as “spearing,” “face tackling” and “butt blocking” — that often leads to concussions.
Since these hits have been infrequently penalized, Dreibelbis said, officials have been encouraged to recognize these infractions more often during games this season.
The message from the state level seems to be trickling down to high school coaches and administrators.
First-year Grimsley football coach D amon Coiro said state officials spoke at length of new measures for head injuries and heat-related issues, and he characterized the discussions as productive.
Coiro and Whirlies athletics director Lewi s Newman said the school already has taken measures to protect its players.
“Ninety-nine percent of it is directed toward prevention. That’s the key,” Newman said. “We try to prevent it, so we go through all the helmet safety stuff prior to putting on helmets.”
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