Milford school officials on Thursday adopted a tough new concussion policy that will sideline student athletes for a year if they receive a severe concussion or several milder ones.
The policy — which is required to be in place by March 1 under state law — will prevent athletes from playing any school sport if they receive a single severe concussion, two moderate concussions, or three mild concussions in a season. The School Committee's vote was 6-1 in favor, with Robert Lanzetta voting against.
The year-long length of the benching is meant to protect students from neurological damage that can result from head injuries, which sometimes doesn't reveal itself for years, said Milford pediatrician Dr. Felix Perriello, who was among a panel that drafted the policy. Once someone suffers one concussion, they are far more likely to have another, said Perriello, who described the Milford policy as "revolutionary" for school districts.
"This is something that is going to protect kids from injury," he said. "And protect them from having neurological deficits in [their] 50s."
Emerging research on concussions has raised concern about the cumulative impact of a head injury that can have debilitating effects over time, including memory loss and depression. Although full contact sports, such as football, are the most common source of injury, the Milford policy would cover all athletics.
School Committee members said Thursday they were concerned students might try to hide their injuries by not reporting symptoms, to avoid being prevented from playing sports. But members also said they wanted to err on the side of caution.
"You really can't second-guess a head injury," said committee member Paul Mazzuchelli.
Lanzetta, who voted against the policy, said he felt it was too restrictive in that it imposed a flat, 12-month ban on playing athletics. He said he preferred a student's doctor to make the decision on when an athlete could return to play.
"I'm opposed to directing the parents and their physician, that the child is out for 12 months," he said.