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Westchester Rolls Out 10-Point Plan for Concussion Safety in Schools

Westchester Rolls Out 10-Point Plan for Concussion Safety in Schools

Safer Communities special task force of Westchester County releases a 10-point guide for head injury and concussion prevention for high school students and young athletes.

The concussion task force of Westchester County, led by Dr. Mark Herceg, unveiled its 10 Best Practices for concussion management for high school and youth sports at a press conference in White Plains on Monday. According to its study, there is a wide discrepancy between prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of head injuries, the most prominent safety issue in sports. According to data, an average of 10 students per school suffer concussions each year. 

The 10-point plan–an initiative of Safer Sports, a part of County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s 3-year-old Safer Communities campaign–focuses on improving collaboration between school officials when treating head injuries. It also stresses the importance of parent education about concussions and how to identify symptoms. Some of the protocols in place in local schools were inadequate and years out of practice, according to Herceg. The task force’s goal is to get school caught up on the latest, rapidly evolving science of head injury protocol and concussion treatment.

The recommended 10 Best Practices include:

1. Start With Awareness. Educate parents, students, athletes, coaches, and any school personnel associated with youth sports programs about concussions and protocols before participating in sports.

2. Build a Team. Encourage schools and sports organizations to designate a concussion management team (CMT), including an athletic trainer, physician, nurse, athletic director, and school/neuropsychologist, that brings together experts trained in concussions. 

3. Report What You Know.  Report all concussions along with any lasting sympotms from the field, playgound, or classroom to a parent, the ER, a health professional. 

4. Assess Situation Immediately. Conduct sideline assessments that can be compared to baseline behaviour by athletic trainers, in order to capture concussions in real time as they occur. 

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5. Don't "One-Stop" Shop for Answers. School districts and youth programs should provide referrals to specialists (neurologists, physical therapists, neuro-ophthalmologists, neuropsychologists) to treat specific symptons as needed. 

6. Understand the Big Picture. Undertand the impact a concussion can have on behavioral, academic, emotional, and physical maturation in young children. 

7. Stay Current. Health care providers evaluating children and adolescents must maintain a current level of understanding of the diagnosis, treatment, and management of sports-related concussions. 

8. Encourage Training. Properly trained professinals, such as athletic trainers, should be available to conduct sideline tests and that the results are reviewed and interpreted by a neuropsychologist or school psychologist. 

9. Beware of Simple Answers. Concussions are a clinical diagnosis, and that takes more than a single or brief computerized test to understand the extent of the injury. 

10. Focus on Return-to-Learn. Schools should have a return to learn plan (RTL) to address issues children face as they return to the classroom aftern an injury. Returning to the classroom does not always parallel returning to play. 

The task force will continue to gather data, examine concussion incidents, and disseminate its finding across the county in the coming months. A Safer Sports booklet will be distributed across the county, and will rely on school and community leaders to implement its recommendations. The task force aims to encourage young people to participate in sports while being informed about risk and proper protocol in the event of a head injury. 

The task force’s 10 Best Practices has been endorsed by the Brain Injury Association of America, and the New York state government.

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