Letters to Coach & Athletic Director
The following letters are from readers in response to recent columns and editorials written by our editors. Join the conversation at coachad.com (“Huddle Up“) and winninghoops.com (“20-Second Timeout“), and voice your opinion on the most pressing issues currently facing athletic administrators and coaches.
A great article, a great and needed topic, but please axe the word “ensure” from any safety discussion.
We use the “buddy system” at our school and although nothing has ever happened, it is much better to be proactive, than reactive.
It’s Time Baseline Testing Becomes Mandatory
(March/April issue of Coach And Athletic Director)
I read your editorial advocating for baseline testing and I agree 100 percent with your stance with one addition, that being the employment of an athletic trainer at every high school.
We utilize ImPACT testing here at Stephenville ISD and I have found it to be very useful in the diagnosis of concussions and subsequent return to activity. Where I find the test helps the most is helping parents who do not understand the injury understand that their son or daughter has not returned to normal. In the past, student-athletes would know the answers to my questions that helped determine whether to keep them off the field or put them back in the game. Since the advent of neurocognitive testing, this is no longer the case. Now, once the student gets a valid test, if they suffer a head injury we can re-test and have something to compare their results to.
Where I wished you had gone with the editorial is to also call for the employment of a certified athletic trainer at every high school in the country. If not at all schools, at least those that participate in collision sports such as football, soccer and hockey. Baseline testing is critical in diagnosing a concussion, but it must have in-depth interpretation by a trained professional. The athletic coach is not that person. Every school should have an emergency action plan designed by a trained medical professional.
You mention that schools will often balk at the cost of baseline testing. They do when it comes to the cost of athletic trainers as well; even more so because it’s a greater expense. When a superintendent tells me that they can’t afford an athletic trainer, I tell them that they can’t afford not to have an athletic trainer. I follow that up with the point that if they can afford to pay a coach and buy equipment then they need to figure out a way to pay an athletic trainer as well.
Mike Carroll, Stephenville High School, Stephenville, Texas
As a long time coach and a parent of a college basketball player who has had two serious concussions in the last three years, I could not agree more. My son’s concussions forced him to withdraw from college both times. I am very thankful that both his high school and the university require athletes to get a baseline ImPACT score. Because of this, we were able to track his recovery to the point where he was able to return to normal activities. His doctor told him that he could play basketball again, but said that one more concussion and he would have to consider not playing any more.
The university training staff and doctor recommended wearing protective headgear during practice and games. We all knew that it may not prevent another concussion, but if it had even the slightest chance of lessening a blow to the head, it’s worth it. More than once, the padding in the headband took the brunt of a glancing blow. He wore the headband without incident for 20 games into our season until a referee told him that the NCAA did not allow the wearing of protective headgear in basketball games. He said that since he had been wearing it all season he would allow it, but if it became an issue, it would have to be removed or he could not play.
When I went to the NCAA website to check on this, unbelievably I found it to be true. It said that there were not enough studies showing that protective headgear was effective in lessening the possibility of a concussion, and since it was not preventative it provided players, coaches and parents a false sense of security. It also said that a player wearing such headgear would run the risk of being a “target.”
You say “if equipment takes even the smallest step in protecting an athlete’s brain, then it’s worth it.” Unfortunately, the NCAA does not agree. Interestingly enough, they do allow a myriad of neoprene sleeves, (any physician or trainer will tell you that they are not preventative) but when it comes to protecting the brain, you are forced to either play without protection or not play at all. In my opinion, it’s ridiculous.