The National Federation of State High School Associations announced that its mandated concussion course for high school student-athletes reached more than 2 million completions before the 2015 high school season.
NFHS, which is based in Indianapolis, regulates the playing rules for 16 girls and boys sports for 18,500 high schools throughout the United States, according to the association’s website.
The organization introduced an online concussion course in 2010 and ruled that all high school athletes take the educational course.
In order to be in compliance with the requirement, the Arizona State Legislature revised Senate Bill 1521 during the first session of 2011 to instruct the education of parents, coaches and students regarding the dangers of concussion.
During the fall of 2011, the Arizona Interscholastic Association required that all high school athletes across the state complete the NFHS concussion course in order to be eligible for play.
As defined by the NFHS’s concussion course, a concussion is a serious brain injury where the brain moves rapidly inside the skull. Symptoms of a concussion include confusion, clumsiness, slow speech and loss of consciousness.
Approximately 300,000 high school athletes suffer sports-related head injuries in the U.S. each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The course educates athletes on concussion symptoms, response and what to do after a concussion. Throughout the workbook, the course draws on professional athletes such as Phoenix Mercury player Diana Taurasi, doctors from Barrow Neurological Institute and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, and real video examples where concussions happen to athletes.
Phoenix Sunnyslope High School sophomore Claire Pishko suffered a concussion during club soccer in late September after she fell and another player stepped on Pishko’s head. Pishko said she believes the course required by AIA aided in helping her recognize and bounce back from the concussion.
“I figured I had a concussion,” Pishko said. “I kept seeing stars.”
High school coaches also have to take a concussion course that prepares them in case one of their players suffers one during a game or practice.
Sunnyslope badminton coach Sarah Schlesinger said the course is more intense than the student version. While there’s a coaching course that mentions concussions, coaches have to take a concussion specific course as well, Schlesinger said.
Since the premiere of the course, the NFHS and AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee have updated it to include new material, such as videos and guidelines for returning to play after a concussion.
In the instance an athlete is injured, the concussion course instructs the athlete to sit out until being cleared by a medical professional.
When it comes down to treating concussions, the course instructs that an athletic trainer should examine athletes following a hit. Athletes should be treated objectively by diagnosing neurologic function instead of asking how the athlete is feeling.
Dr. Steven Erickson leads the Banner Concussion Center at Banner Health in Phoenix. One of the services that the center offers is Baseline Testing.
According to Erickson, baseline testing is an imperative first step in treating concussions. Baseline testing essentially takes a snapshot of the brain function prior to a concussion.
“Baseline testing provides us information on an individual’s neurological function before they get injured, so if they get injured and we’re seeing them and treating them, we know what the goal is for complete recovery,” Erickson said.
Aside from education, states and schools are doing more to take action in sports to reduce the risk of concussion. For example, AIA ruled the amount of time that football players can practice contact during the season to no more than one-third of practice.
“Bottom line is when in doubt, we need to sit them out and get them off the field so they don’t sustain another injury on top of an existing one,” Erickson said.