The New Law
(This piece is a companion to a December 2010 article on the sports concussion crisis)
By Mary Greendale
As a result of media attention and Congressional Hearings around brain safety research, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law that went into effect in August 2010 that imposes new safety standards on school football programs. Any school that is subject to the MIAA Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association is regulated by this law. The state Department of Public Health is planning for public comment on the regulations to take place mid-winter and with final regulations to be out by early spring. In the meantime, they have provided the guidance below.
The following must participate in an athletic head injury safety training program:
Parent volunteers for any extracurricular athletic activity
Physicians employed by the school or who volunteer for any extracurricular athletic activity
School nurses or nurses who volunteer for any extracurricular athletic activity
School marching band directors
Parents or legal guardians of children who participate in any extracurricular athletic activity.
The training is available Online in two courses, which are free. The courses cover the signs and symptoms of concussions, appropriate responses, clearing a player before return to play and prevention of head injuries. A certificate is provided upon course completion. (The first Online course is available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/online_training.html).
The other comes from the National Federation of State High School Associations. You do not need to be a member but do need to register to take the course by clicking “Order Here.” (nfhslearn.com/electiveDetail.aspx?courseID=15000).
The law also requires that athletes and their parents inform their coaches about prior head injuries at the beginning of the season.
If a student athlete becomes unconscious or suffers a known or suspected concussion during a game or practice, the law mandates removing the student from play or practice, and requires written certification from a licensed medical professional for “return to play.”
The law also prohibits coaches, trainers and others from encouraging or permitting a student athlete to use sports equipment as a weapon or to engage in sports techniques that unreasonably endanger the health and safety of him/herself or other players, such as helmet to helmet hits.
Pop Warner is requiring the training and has started using a more technically advanced helmet.
Mary Greendale is a Holliston-based freelance writer.