Fall is just around the corner, and with it the beginning of a new school year – and the start of another sports season for our student athletes. Now’s a good time to take a few moments to provide an update on our efforts to reduce and prevent sports-related concussions and other brain injuries in students involved in sports and other physical activities at school.
A concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Their effects can be serious – and many of our student athletes are at risk for this type of injury when engaged in school sports or other physical activities.
That’s why in 2010 Governor Patrick signed a law on sports-related head injures to promote the safety of young athletes in Massachusetts. DPH wrote and implemented the regulations to support the law. They apply to public middle and high schools serving grade 6 through high school graduation, and other schools subject to the official rules of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).
The regulations are designed to do two things – prevent concussions and minimize the health consequences should a concussion occur. They emphasize a team approach, bringing together all those in the school community responsible for student athletes’ safety to understand the risks of concussions so they can respond appropriately.
DPH has developed a wide variety of materials to support these regulations, including the required reporting forms for schools, model school policies, approved annual trainings for those involved in school sports, approved trainings for clinicians who provide clearance to return to play, and more. All of these can be found on the DPH website at www.mass.gov/dph/sportsconcussion.
As the new school year gets underway, here’s what school staff, students, and health care providers should know:
- All public middle schools and high schools (including charter schools), as well as all private schools that are members of the MIAA, need to provide data to the Department annually on the number of Report of Head Injury Forms received by the school and the number of those forms that indicate that the injury occurred during interscholastic athletics. The Year End Data Reporting form for 2012-2013 can be found at www.mass.gov/dph/sports concussion and is due on August 31, 2013.
- Coaches, certified athletic trainers, trainers, volunteers, school and team physicians, school nurses, Athletic Directors, directors responsible for a school marching band, parents and students need to complete one DPH-approved head injury safety training programs (at www.mass.gov/dph/sportsconcussion) annually:
- Each year, before the start of every sports season, the student and the parent should complete a current Pre-participation Head Injury/Concussion Reporting Form for Extracurricular Activities (to be found at www.mass.gov/dph/sportsconcussion or available at the schools) which provides a comprehensive history with up-to-date information relative to the student’s concussion history or other injuries.
- By September 2013, all physicians, nurse practitioners, certified athletic trainers, and neuropsychologists who provide medical clearance for return to play need to verify that they have received Department-approved training in traumatic head injury assessment and management. Options for the DPH-approved clinical training can be found at www.mass.gov/dph/sportsconcussion.
Sports-related head injuries and concussions can have serious consequences for students, including long term health and academic issues if they are not properly treated. At the Department of Public Health we’re committed to partnering with school administrators, athletic directors, healthcare providers and parents to prevent these injuries and promote safe athletic play in schools all across Massachusetts. Here’s to a fun, safe athletic season for our student athletes.