Nashua (N.H.) Working To Get In Compliance With New Concussion Law

August 13, 2012 / Sports Medicine & Nutrition
Nashua Telegraph, Cameron Kittle


School officials will spend the coming weeks making sure they are in compliance with a new state law that requires them to be more vigilant in protecting student athletes from concussions.

The law, which takes effect Aug. 18, will require that high school athletes be removed from the playing field immediately if it’s believed they have suffered a concussion.

The law also requires school districts to distribute information to student athletes and parents about head injuries, and parents will have to sign a form to say they’ve read the material before their child can play this fall.

While Nashua school administrators applaud the new law, they said they’ve already taken steps to do what they can do raise awareness about concussions.

Nashua Athletic Director Thomas Arria said the district already educates parents and students about concussions, and specialized trainers work closely with parents to monitor injured students.

“We’re all on board and keeping an eye on the student,” he said. “Our biggest concern is the safety of our students. It’s something we should be paying attention to anyway, but now it’s time to ensure we’re all doing it.”

Nashua Superintendent Mark Conrad said concussions became a national concern two or three years ago, and the district made a point to research guidelines and ensure that its coaches acted with student safety first in mind.

Conrad said the district has not yet started to create a policy to comply with the law, but he plans to talk with members of the Board of Education at its meeting Monday.

The same process is underway in Milford, where Athletic Director Marc Maurais said the school board policy committee is waiting to see sample policies from the New Hampshire School Boards Association before taking action.

Maurais said Milford coaches already complete a national concussion course every year to understand the issue and best practices to prevent it.

“It’s how to be proactive in lowering concussion rates,” he said. The best way is to strengthen the neck, according to Robert Cantu, one leading concussion researcher. Maurais said he’s constantly reading new reports to make adjustments and improvements.

Since 2009, more than 30 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws documenting how to recognize when an athlete, playing youth or school sports, might have a concussion.

Concussions in sports, especially high-contact sports like football and hockey, have grabbed national headlines and media attention after star players have been sidelined for long periods at a time or even forced into early retirement.

Nashua schools began a partnership with Dr. Ted Davis at St. Joseph Hospital in 2010. All district athletics provide ImPACT Concussion Management software to the schools’ student-athletes. Davis, a certified ImPACT consultant and neuropsychologist, compares an athlete’s ImPACT test following an injury with his or her baseline test, which is taken at the beginning of the school year. The youth football program in Amherst also works with Davis and the ImPACT software.

The New Hampshire law is a step in the right direction, Maurais said, and it will help people understand the fragility of head injuries.

In Milford, student athletes are removed from play if they suffer a head injury and are not allowed to return to play on the same day. They can only come back after they have been evaluated and approved by a health care professional.

The new law will also require parental approval, which is the only snag that Hudson Athletic Director Karen Bonney sees as a potential problem for districts.

“It gets sticky there,” she said. “What happens if one parent says yes and the other says no? I don’t know what the law would say if that were to happen.”

She said the Hudson School Board will craft a policy that best follows the directives of the law. However, Hudson has been on board with concussion awareness for at least seven years, Bonney said.

“We’ve been testing our kids all along,” she said, using the ImPACT software. “A head injury is not like an ankle injury; it’s not something you can work through. We take it very seriously.”

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