On multiple occasions in the news we have heard conversations regarding concussions and the serious nature of these traumatic brain injuries. There is a law that the state of Pennsylvania signed and took effect on July 1st, 2012, known as the Safety In Youth Sports Act. This law requires any student who is assumed to have suffered a concussion, be evaluated by a licensed physician who is trained in the evaluation and management of concussions. This law is in place to help prevent Second Impact Syndrome as well as to insure a safe return to play for each athlete.
What we are trying to limit is the possibility of a student-athlete from developing Second Impact Syndrome. This potential fatal disease occurs when a person suffers a second trauma to the brain before fully recovering from an initial concussion. During the healing of a concussion the brain is very vulnerable and when a second trauma occurs, physiological changes happen in the brain, which can lead to permanent damage, brain swelling and even death.
SVHS uses Concussion Vital Signs neurocognitive testing which is a useful tool to help the MD make a safe return to play for the student-athlete. Every SVHS athlete will take a baseline test. If a student-athlete suffers a concussion they will undergo a post test and will continue to re-take the post-test until results return to baseline. The post-test is not a pass/fail test; it is a series of mental challenges that measure verbal/visual memory, reaction time and concentration. Baseline tests are valid for two (2) years; therefore, every freshman year and junior year a baseline test will be administered.
When a concussion is believed to have occurred, the student-athlete must be removed from play immediately. The ATC will perform a sideline evaluation known as a SCAT2. The parents of the student-athlete will be immediately notified. The student-athlete and the parent will be asked to help monitor the symptoms as the day continues. This self-monitoring will help the ATC and MD track the progress of the concussion. Rest is best when it comes to concussions, the student-athlete should avoid physical activity and excessive mental activity such as tests, video games, TV, loud music, reading and schoolwork until cleared by the monitoring physician.
The Return to Play Protocol will be a collaborative effort with the physician, ATC, coach, parents and the student-athlete. The student-athlete must be symptom free for a specific amount of time deemed by the attending physician (typically one week). The post-test must be within the limits of their baseline and the MD, who is trained in concussion management, must clear the student-athlete to begin a five (5) day Return to Play Protocol. The protocol will consist of a gradual return to full activity. The student must remain symptom free each day throughout the protocol. If symptoms return the student-athlete will immediately stop the protocol and may begin when symptom free once again. Once the fifth day is completed, the athlete may return to game activity. The fifth day of the protocol cannot be substituted with a game.