Westborough, MA August 18, 2015 Schools across the country are preparing student athletes to return to the fall sports gridiron. This week each year I visit several public and private high schools to inform the parents’ of student athletes about the individual concussion programs that each school offers. Most schools have policies that require physician guided return to play. As a neuropsychologist and certified school psychologist I want to point out that there is so much more to recovery than just getting back on the field of play. A school re-entry plan should be put in place after a student athlete sustains a concussion. This usually means one to three days off from school to allow the brain to heal.
Since July 2010 the MIAA – Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association – the governing body for pubic school athletics has required concussion education for coaches, parents, referees, and athletes themselves. The idea is to inform everyone about the signs and symptoms of concussion. Emphasis is now being placed on the athletes themselves to report a concussion before they risk greater injury by returning to play while still experiencing the symptoms of concussion. The symptoms of concussion have been well described elsewhere including on this website and most parents have taken the online test that is mandated by the MIAA.
As a neuropsychologist in practice in Westborough I have been fortunate to work with excellent athletic trainers, school nurses, and pediatricians as a team providing baseline ImPACT testing, assessment of post-injury concussion, and carefully designed return-to-learn programs, and clearance for return-to-play. I have assisted several Massachusetts and Rhode Island school districts with writing individual concussion policies that have addressed current “best practice” for dealing with student athletes who suffer head injuries in sport.
The MIAA has begun to allow non-physicians to play a larger role in the return-to-play decisions. The MIAA website has all of its concussion policies that are here on this link. This will permit other practitioners with specialized training in concussion management the opportunity to develop return-to-learn plans and to clear an athlete for competition when they are ready. Physician Assistants, Neuropsychologists, Nurse Practitioners, and some ATC Trainers can now write return to play plans with the appropriate training and careful consideration of each student’s needs.
Congratulations for all those student athletes who worked all summer at captain’s practices – running, skating, playing summer soccer, etc. Good luck and be safe. Contact me at Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital for consultation after injury. My policy is to have injured players seen within 72 hours for updated neurocognitive testing and post-injury planning. When symptoms exceed 7-10 days further assessment and consultation may be needed. I encourage everyone to see Dr. Evans video posted below to learn more about recovery from concussion. It takes a care team to help a student athlete get back to school and back to play in a safe way. Stay in touch with team trainers, physicians, and your school nurse.
Concussion Video released August, 2014 that is interesting and funny by Dr. Mike Evans, a Canadian Internist
Check out Dr. Mike Evans Concussion 101 video – click here