Minnesota School Board Discusses Concussion Testing

January 13, 2012 / FootballSports Medicine
Jordan Independent, David Schueller


JORDAN, Minn.–The Jordan School Board decided to move forward with concussion baseline testing.

The test gives a number for normal function so that if an athlete is injured later, the same test can be applied to see if effects of the injury are still present.

Athletic Director Jeff Vizenor first proposed the idea in Jordan early in the fall.

Then, in November 2011, the board reconsidered, on the cautionary words of Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) President Kent Theisse, who told Jordan School Board Chairwoman Deb Pauly that the district was setting itself up for a lawsuit.

In her first board meeting Jan. 9, Board Member Caroline Carritt asked whether the district had consulted with its attorney on the matter.

Superintendent Kirk Nelson said it had not. Instead, the district was relying on the advice of the MSBA, he said.

Pauly is also an MSBA board member.

After discussion Jan. 9, board members decided to move forward on the idea, and to approve the details of the plan at a future meeting.

Board members had in November asked Vizenor to come back with more information, citing concerns over legal liability resulting from allowing the testing.

Vizenor returned and compared it to screening for blood pressure, which doesn’t force someone to take action or see a doctor.

Board Member Dan Buresh compared it to a physical, which is required.

“I don’t see how this is any different than requiring a physical,” Buresh said.

Board Member Bob Vollbrecht said in his opinion, the district has more legal protection by trying to set up a baseline test. That, he said, prevents kids from shopping around for doctors who will sign off on them playing again too early.

“My opinion is something is better than nothing,” Vollbrecht said.

A $10 fee per athlete per year would likely be charged and testing would be implemented in grades 7-12.

Board Member Lauren Pedersen said she had wanted the testing to be done on her son.

“I wanted to get Landon done when he was five for hockey, so I have no problem with this,” Pedersen said.

The Minnesota State High School League recommends the testing.

“Baseline testing should be considered for athletes competing in contact sports, especially football, ice hockey, soccer, wrestling and basketball. Testing is most cost effectively applied after symptoms have resolved,” according to a recommendation sheet from the league.

Last year, the Minnesota Legislature wrote into law that all high school coaches must have concussion training. The Minnesota State High School League provided and all coaches received the training.

For parents and athletes looking to get back to play as fast as possible, Vizenor said the tests could end up being favorable, because a kid could return to play faster than expected.

Or, it could be tough, he said, because the tests would take into account outside injuries about which staff might not know.

Prior injuries can mean even a small hit in play can take a long time to heal.

“We don’t know. And think of how many kids go out to the sledding hill and bump their heads,” Vizenor said.

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