Stronger Concussion Regs Approved

BERLIN- Public school systems in Maryland and across the lower shore will have to implement even more stringent regulations on concussions and head injuries for student-athletes after the state announced the changes last week.

The Maryland State Board of Education took action in their meeting last week to strengthen protections for student-athletes by making permanent the emergency regulations put in place last fall requiring training for coaches in the area of brain injuries. Board members proposed amending the current regulations in order to provide enhanced protection for athletes. 

When the regulations are finalized, they will require refresher concussion training for coaches on a biennial basis. The new regulations will alos require concussion training for physical education teachers and make certain that local school systems implement policies to ensure documented oral and written notification to parents, and timely notification to athletic directors and school nurses of student-athletes who have sustained a suspected concussion.

The proposed regulations also identify the health care providers authorized to return a student-athlete to play after a suspected concussion in an attempt to ensure that the provider has had the proper training for concussion treatment and management.  The regulations would direct the Maryland State Department of Education, in collaboration with medical, academic, and athletic advisors, to identify collision, contact, and non-contact sports, and recommend limitations of contact to reduce risk.

Original emergency regulations, approved last July, required that local school systems train each coach in concussion risk and management, including criteria for removal and return to play and recognition of concussion symptoms. In addition, each school system has been required to implement policies that assure athletes and their parents or guardians receive information about the nature and risk of brain injuries. 

The emergency regulations also have required a medical assessment if any student-athlete is suspected of sustaining a concussion or other brain injury. The athlete cannot be allowed to return to the contest until cleared by a licensed health care provider authorized to provide sports physical examinations for evaluation and return to play.

Traumatic brain injuries in sports have been in the public spotlight, given attention at both the professional and collegiate level, and State Board members have spent several months working toward strengthened protections for students. The emergency regulations were in place for the start of the 2012-13 school year.