Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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Students well aware of concussions in IL, MD

Just a few days remain until opening night for high school football in Illinois, and teams have returned to the practice field, taking special care to avoid concussions from any serious blows to the head, the Naperville Sun reports.

Naperville North & Neuqua Valley in 2007, our 1st full year of football coverage (Dann Wunderlich/Flickr CC)

A new law took effect this school year in Illinois, requiring any student who has suffered a concussion—not just student-athletes—to get clearance from a doctor before returning to practice or to class. The law has been extended to include band students and some junior high or elementary school students in Illinois school districts.

Furthermore, schools are required to adopt a “return to play” and “return to learn” plan they can put in place for any students who suffer a concussion, which “can occur at any point, and that’s really the big difference in how we’re addressing those issues (this year),” the Sun quoted Jeffrey Judge, health services supervisor in District U46, based in Elgin, as saying.

Many other districts have also created or already had procedures for concussions. Most schools give students a baseline test before they begin playing, which is designed to help with treatment if the student does receive a concussion.

We reported last school year about the ImPACT and King-Devick tests, either of which can be administered by a non-physician. The two tests are used at Hinsdale Central High School in Chicago’s near-west suburbs.

king-devick test cards for concussion testing
Cards used in the King-Devick test for concussion (see text for explanation)

A similar baseline test is administered to student-athletes in Howard County, Maryland, according to a report on WBAL-TV.

Students might hesitate at first on the baseline test, but it’s worth it in the end, since the difference in student performance between the baseline and the test given after a blow to the head is what determines a rough estimate of the chances they’ve suffered a concussion.

“At first, you’re, like, kind of stressing a little bit because you want to be able to remember the things that you are supposed to remember on it so you don’t fail it or anything,” the station quoted one football player at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia as saying.

Athletic directors and trainers everywhere also make sure students know to err on the side of caution when it comes to the symptoms of a concussion: they need to report headaches, cognitive impairment, and other signs and symptoms immediately so they can be assessed for concussion. According to the Mayo Clinic, concussion symptoms include:

  Headache or pressure in the head
  Temporary loss of consciousness
  Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
  Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
  Dizziness or “seeing stars”
  Ringing in the ears

Slurred speech
Delayed response to questions
Appearing dazed

Symptoms may be immediate or delayed by hours or days after injury, especially long-term symptoms like memory complaints, trouble concentrating, irritability, sensitivity to light, sleep disturbances, depression, or disorders of taste or smell.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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