EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 23, 2012

N.H. wraps up first season with concussion law

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — The first fall season under the new state concussion law is complete and local athletic directors say they have been doing what is required under the law already.

“Most of what that new law did, we’ve been doing for years,” said Angelo Fantasia, Timberlane Regional High School athletic director. “Educating people on concussions is something we’ve been doing before someone told us we had to.”

The law requires a student-athlete suspected of having a concussion be removed from a game or practice immediately. The athlete is then only allowed to play again if given clearance by both a health-care provider and a parent.

“We just basically have fallen in line with what the state legislation has mandated,” said Vicki Parady-Guay, Sanborn Regional High School athletic director. “We had been doing most of it. The only added piece is a sign-off form, which needs to be brought back in from a physician and parent.”

Marion Alberico is a parent of a Windham High athlete who plays three contact sports. She said the addition of a parent signing off before their child is allowed to play has been a welcome one.

“It was an important step for everyone to make,” Alberico said. “It helps us all become more educated in the risk. You want your kids to play, but you want them to be safe.”

The law only encourages schools to develop guidelines to educate athletes, parents and coaches. But many schools have taken the initiative to do so on their own.

“We had an education piece this fall which our trainers put on with information about concussions for families and community members,” said Tim Powers, Pinkerton Academy athletic director. “Getting everyone involved in what a concussion and how to identify what it is, is something we need to continue to do.”

Windham High athletic director Bill Raycraft said that in addition to ensuring the student is completely healthy before returning to the field, the school also works to make sure the student is not falling behind in class.

“One thing we find is the students’ grades are affected and the teachers didn’t know why,” Raycraft said. “We make sure there is a steady stream of communication between the school nurse, guidance counselor and teachers, so everyone knows what is going on.”

Raycraft said the number of concussions at his school has been about the same each year.

“I think that is because we have been ahead of the curve,” he said.

Salem High School athletic director David Rozumek said they are looking into how to prevent concussions before they happen.

“We are always looking at new helmet manufacturers,” Rozumek said. “We also look at the technique we are using. We can’t be leading with our heads.”

While the schools are meeting and in some cases going beyond what the law requires of them, the biggest challenge for them is being prepared for whatever new information comes out, which would improve the awareness even more.

“I think that, five years from now, we will probably know even more,” Fantasia said. “We need to stay ahead of the curve with what the latest medical research says.”