Dr. Thomas Trojian on ESPN Radio’s "The Back Page" January 27
As reported by the Stamford Advocate, January 26, 2010.
Concussion Law Considered to Protect Athletes
By Ken Dixon
HARTFORD -- High school coaches would be trained to spot the signs of concussion, and injured athletes would have to stay away from practice and games until cleared for playing by doctors, under legislation unveiled Tuesday.
If approved by the General Assembly and signed into law, Connecticut would become only the third state in the nation to protect high school football, soccer, basketball, hockey and other athletes from possible brain damage from returning too soon after a concussion.
Concussions are the second most common injury among the state's 100,000 high school athletes, after ankle sprains and strains. About 40 percent of those with concussions return to play before qualified medical personnel say it's OK.
While football collisions -- helmets on helmets or helmets on knees -- result in the most concussions, national statistics indicate that both girls soccer and girls basketball have high percentages of concussions, followed by boys soccer and boys basketball.
"We want to take action before we have a particularly highly publicized tragedy, so that we will have to have a victim for whom the law is named," said Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, during an afternoon news conference. "When in doubt, sit it out."
"We want to beef up the criteria that coaches have to meet so that they are educated in recognizing the symptoms of concussion," said Sen. Thomas P. Gaffey, D-Meriden, co-chairman of the Education Committee.
Under the proposal, after a player is observed taking a very hard hit to the head, a coach would be prohibited from putting the player back in, whether at a practice or in the middle of the game, until that player is medically cleared to play.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate about 3.5 million sports-related concussions occur nationwide annually and that 400,000 high school athletes had concussions between 2005 and 2008.
Dr. Tom Trojian, associate professor at the University of Connecticut/Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center and the team physician for the University of Connecticut women's basketball team, said concussions for the growing brains of high school athletes can be particularly damaging.
"It would be important for us to allow people to be evaluated prior to return to play," Trojian said. "We only have one mind."
Dr. Carl W. Nessen, director of sports medicine at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center, said that the incidence of concussions is probably not increasing, but the public is becoming more aware of their danger.
"We have to educate players and athletes, their parents, coaches, referees and all the medical providers that are involved in taking care of people who have had some kind of head injury," Nessen said. "One of the biggest problems with youth and interscholastic sports and with concussions in that age group is that the maturing brain takes longer to recover than the superstars that we see on Sunday afternoon on the TV."
Michael Savage, executive director of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which supervises all state high school sports, said he's proud to help draft the legislation, which will be submitted when the General Assembly session starts on Feb. 3.
Savage said the conference does have guidelines and that they've done "quite a bit of work in this area," but added, "We need some legislation that will, in fact, assist us to educate our coaches and to provide them with the necessary education in order to allow youngsters to participate in a very safe manner."
Under the legislation, similar to laws in Oregon and Washington, training for state coaching permits would include information on how to recognize signs of a concussion and how to seek proper treatment.
David Harackiewicz, hockey coach at Newington High School, representing state coaches, said it's crucial for coaches to see the signs.
He said if "all the coaches knew some of the signs and symptoms," more athletes would be "sitting out."
Harakiewicz stressed that coaches of younger children should also be made aware of the signs of concussion.