STUDENT-ATHLETE CONCUSSIONS PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 08 December 2015 10:59

Student-Athlete Concussions

During the 2015 General Assembly Session, legislation was introduced by Delegate Luke Torian (House Bill 2006) and Senator Richard Stuart (Senate Bill 998).  The legislation as introduced would have required each local school division to establish a management plan for implementation of and compliance with its policies and procedures on the identification and handling of suspected concussions in student-athletes.  The Senate Education and Health Committee and the House Education Committee members reviewed these bills and determined that further study of this issue would be appropriate.  The members of the Committees requested the Commission on Youth to study the provisions set forth in the legislation.  As a result, the Commission on Youth adopted a study plan on May 5, 2015 to address student-athlete concussions. 

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, concussions are considered to be one of the most complex sports injuries.  Short-term effects may include: loss of consciousness, confusion, memory disturbance, slowed reaction time, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, mood changes and sleep alternation.  Long-term effects may include: depression, mild memory disturbance, mild cognitive impairment, chronic headaches, irritability, vertigo, difficulty concentrating, impulsiveness and posttraumatic stress disorder. 

Through the Board of Education, Virginia has put in place guidelines for the development of policies and procedures on the identification and handling of suspected concussions.  Student-athletes and parents or guardians are required to review and sign annually information on concussions. Further, any athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion must be removed from the athletic event and evaluated by a licensed health care provider.  Student-athletes recovering from a concussion are prohibited from returning to play until obtaining written clearance.  All non-interscholastic youth programs utilizing public school property must have policies and procedures for the identification and handling of suspected concussions that are consistent with either the local school division’s policies and procedures of the Board’s Guidelines for Polices on Concussions in Student-Athletes.  The Board of Education also amended their guidelines to include a “Return to Learn Protocol” with requirements that school personnel to be alert to cognitive and academic issues that may be experienced by a student-athlete who has suffered a concussion or other head injury.  Schools are also to accommodate the gradual return to full participation in academic activities by a student-athlete who has suffered a concussion or other health injury. 

 As a result of a Round Table of experts, draft recommendations were developed for consideration.  The Commission will be voting on the draft recommendations, following public comment at the Commission’s December 8th meeting.  Recommendations to be considered include:

 Recommendation 1

Request the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to assess the feasibility of conducting regional information training sessions on updated concussion guidelines and concussion awareness.  VDH previously conducted these trainings after the adoption of the 2011 Guidelines for Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes. 

The Departments are encouraged to use materials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other nationally recognized resources as a guideline for presenting information to communities.  Information presented should focus on identification of concussions, the use of smart phone applications, short-term and long-term health effects of concussions, and safety precautions.

 Recommendation 2

Request the VDOE to develop additional guidance for the return to learn protocols which may be included in the Board of Education’s Guidelines for Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes.  Guidance should include case management procedures for return to learn, minimum standards for return to learn, and practical strategies for teachers to implement in the classroom.  In addition, the Guidelines should include template communication consent forms that school divisions may use to help assist with the sharing of information between schools, families, and the medical community.  School divisions should be encouraged to identify a person within school/school division to ensure that the return to learn protocol is being followed.

Recommendation 3

Request the Executive Committee of the Virginia High School League consider requiring that a school division must have a return to learn protocol in place in order to participate in the VHSL.

 Recommendation 4

Request the Executive Committee of the Virginia High School League to examine the feasibility of developing a statewide database/tracking system on student-athlete concussions in Virginia.  Considerations for the database should include the ability to capture data on how long it takes for the student to return to play/return to learn; how to make such a system effective in using the data to increase positive outcomes; how data may be used to determine if current school concussion policies/programs are effective; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA); and if the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) High School Reporting Information Online (RIO) System could be expanded to serve as Virginia’s database.

 Recommendation 5

Amend § 22.1-271.6 of the Code of Virginia to require local school divisions develop policies and procedures regarding "Return to Learn Protocol" by July 1, 2016, consistent with either the local school division's policies and procedures or the Board's Guidelines for Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes.

 Recommendation 6

Amend § 22.1-271.6 of the Code of Virginia to change the group covered by the statute from student-athlete to student.

 

Recommendation 7

Request the Virginia Department of Education convene a stakeholder team to provide best practices resources for school divisions to use which outlines what other school divisions are doing with their policies on student-athlete concussions.  Such resources shall help connect schools that do it well with schools that are having difficulty either developing policies or implementing them.

 Recommendation 8

Option 1:  Introduce a budget amendment to provide funding for low population density/poverty areas for additional supports in assisting students with concussions to return to the classroom successfully.  Funding may be used for a licensed school nurse position employed by the school division, a licensed nurse contracted by the local school division, or a certified athletic trainer.  Funding shall be used to support the return to learn protocol as defined by the Board of Education’s Guidelines for Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes.

 Option 2:  Provide funding through the VDOE to assist students with concussions to return to the classroom successfully.  The purpose of this budget amendment is to provide the necessary supports to schools for students with concussions who may not have those services available within the school setting.  The funding may be used to contract with licensed medical professionals to assist the local school with the return to learn protocol as defined by the Board of Education’s Guidelines for Policies on Concussion in Student-Athletes.   

 Recommendation 9

Introduce a budget amendment to provide funding through the Standards of Quality (SOQ) for a certified athletic trainer in every school division.

 Recommendation 10

Introduce a budget amendment to provide funding through SOQ for a school nurse in every school division.

 Recommendation 11

Option 1:  Introduce a budget amendment for an independent assessment conducted by an institution of higher education of local school divisions’ policies on concussion in student-athletes.

 Option 2:  Request VDOE contact school divisions identified by the Virginia Commission on Youth as either not having a policy regarding the identification and handling of suspected concussions in student-athletes or that have missing components, such as annual parental review of the division’s concussion policies.  VDOE will work with these school divisions to provide technical assistance and resources so that these divisions expeditiously adopt policies that fulfill the requirements set forth in the Board of Education’s Guidelines for Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes.

 Recommendation 12

Request the Executive Committee of the Virginia High School League to require a Pre-Participation Physical Examination (PPE) for athletes participating in middle school sports.

 Recommendation 13

Request the Virginia Recreational Sports Association, the Virginia Youth Football and Cheering League, and the Virginia Youth Soccer Association to investigate ways to encourage concussion education including: providing strategies in concussion prevention, the development of a youth league report card for meeting safety standards for their members; and the establishment of policies and procedures regarding the identification and handling of suspected concussions in student-athletes, consistent with either local school division’s policies and procedures or the Board of Education’s Guidelines for Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes.

 Recommendation 14

Request the Virginia Council for Private Education to investigate ways to encourage concussion education, to provide strategies in concussion prevention, and to establish policies and procedures regarding the identification and handling of suspected concussions in student-athletes, consistent with either the local school division's policies and procedures or the Board of Education’s Guidelines for Policies on Concussions in Student-Athletes.