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Milford Adopts Tough Concussion Policy

The Milford School Committee voted 6-1 to approve a concussion policy that will prevent student athletes who have a severe concussion from playing sports for a year.

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.

milfordman February 17, 2012 at 11:52 AM
One size fits all policy. And, of course, one size does not fit all, but this new policy is what's easiest for the bureaucrats, and that's all that matters.
Joe Kane February 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM
I agree that more has to be done to ensure the safety of our kids playing sports, but I don't agree that this policy is exactly the correct thing to do. Concussions should be dealt with on a case by case basis, just as any other medical malady. Just as you would not want someone with the sniffles to be told they have to stay out of school because it may lead to the flu. You wouldn't want a school policy to force a child to come back to school, after being out a week, because most kids should have recovered by then! Most football players take a pre-season concussion test that measures how fast his brain is working while taking that test. If the same player takes the same test after being diagnosed with a concussion, the speed and the quality of his/her answers are impacted. Concussions come in varied degrees of severity. Why a all-in-one solution? I don't think that was completely thought through!
Tarik Miranda February 17, 2012 at 12:35 PM
This is very unfair, if a doctor a TRAINED professional in knowing what is wrong and the problem then he should state how long you are out for. You will see a lot of kids not showing their concussions because they want to play. This is not helpful and will be ineffective.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Hi Joe, there is a scale used to determine the three categories — severe, moderate and mild — and this policy would still require doctors to make that determination. But one severe concussion in a season, two moderate in a season or three mild in a single season would automatically bench a player for a 12-month period.
RD February 17, 2012 at 01:37 PM
SCAT2. Sports Concussion Assessment Tool 2 is the accepted, measurable and standardized assessment tool used post concussion. It was developed from the pro to student athletes. Do not take concussions lightly. Research at Dr. Cantu's CTE lab at Boston University where they are studying pro athletes post mortem show how cumulative concussions can contribute to CTE. http://www.bu.edu/cste/
Cappuccino February 17, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Had a "mild" concussion 4 years ago. Still feeling effects. Issue is: problems are not constant. So there really is no conclusive test if problem is not occurring all the time. When physically stressed or overtired things are more obvious. Docs rely on patient self reporting. Kids will try to hide symptoms. People don't appreciate that this can affect a kid's life. Wish there were a better way, but I agree with vote.
JustLiftIt February 17, 2012 at 02:36 PM
The problem is that this policy is antiquated and shows ignorance from the start. The 2008 Summit on Concussion in Sport in Zurich eliminated the grading scale. No doctor today who is up to date on concussion management grades concussion as mild, moderate or severe. You have either suffered a concussion or you haven't. The treatment is the same whether you symptoms are multiple and intense or if you have only 2 symptoms and they are mild. Another major problem with this policy is who is going to determine what is severe? What standard are you going to use? Especially in light of the fact that no well-educated, up to date doctor grades them any more. The experts haven't established a grading scale in over 4 years now, so who is going to grade it? There are big problems with this policy.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 02:40 PM
The doctor quoted in the story said a "glasgow" scale is the one used to determine whether concussions are mild, moderate or severe. And the doctor would make the determination. I'm surprised there is so much opposition to this policy. Are you arguing that students should keep playing despite having repeated concussions?
paul February 17, 2012 at 03:42 PM
The ultimate test to this is parenting a 29 year old who is depressed and disfunctional after being a bright and intelligent freshman. Those glory years are not worth a lifetime being ruined by turning away from the problem.Parents be brave! You don't want to be in my position and wished you pulled him out.
Danielle Horn February 17, 2012 at 04:10 PM
I would expect that doctors, to err on the side of caution (protecting both their patients AND themselves), would be more likely to diagnose a student with a moderate to severe concussion than a mild one. That will frustrate the more dedicated players, no doubt, but I think it's probably better to over-diagnose than to under-diagnose. Of course, the more dedicated players, knowing that a concussion diagnosis could shorten their high school career, might not be completely honest about the symptoms they've experienced. I saw that in my stepson, who has had a couple of concussions playing football for Nipmuc. This will require a great deal of vigilance by the adults/coaches, to make sure these kids are getting checked out.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I would encourage everyone who read the story to connect to the link that directs you to the New York Times coverage of concussions in high school, collegiate and professional sports.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) February 17, 2012 at 04:22 PM
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2007/09/16/sports/20070916_CONCUSSION_GRAPHIC.html?ref=headinjuries

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