School sports adopt­ing con­cus­sion pro­to­col

High school coaches re­quired to take safety course

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Start­ing this year, School Sports New­found­land and Labrador has man­dated a con­cus­sion pol­icy for its coaches. One coach from each team is re­quired to com­plete a con­cus­sion course in hopes of bet­ter pre­par­ing them should one of their play­ers suf­fer a blow to the head dur­ing play.

High school coaches in this province are arm­ing them­selves with another tool to help deal with the threat of con­cus­sions and head in­juries.

School Sports NL (SSNL) in­tro­duced a manda­tory con­cus­sion course for coaches who run teams in sports rec­og­nized by the pro­vin­cial body. At least one coach from each team must have the course com­pleted be­fore a team is al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in re­gional or pro­vin­cial tour­na­ment play.

“This is just an ex­tra safety pre­cau­tion we’re tak­ing this sea­son,” said SSNL ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Karen Richard. “We’re try­ing to make the safest en­vi­ron­ment pos­si­ble for the play­ers.”

“It’s a move in the right di­rec­tion,” said As­cen­sion Col­le­giate coach Trevor Dixon. “It’s all about ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness.”

In or­der to take the 20-30 minute course, coaches are re­quired to visit www.school­coach.ca and register for the ap­pli­ca­ble ses­sion. Richard said the course was of­fered to coaches in the past, but this is the first time coaches have been re­quired to com­plete it be­fore step­ping on a bench.

“We’ve heard noth­ing but pos­i­tive feed­back from coaches who have done it,” she said. “They said it was timely and they found it re­ally help­ful. The more ed­u­ca­tion you can get the bet­ter.”

In the last sev­eral years, con­cus­sions have been the buzz­word when it comes to sports both in the media and amongst fans.

It was just last month that Benn Hamm, a high school football player in Ok­la­homa, died af­ter sus­tain­ing a head in­jury in a game.

“It’s a good idea, es­pe­cially for new peo­ple to the is­sue,” Laval High School coach Michael Gam­bin said. “It’s good to re­fresh your knowl­edge. (Con­cus­sions) are so preva­lent now.”

Gam­bin coaches soft­ball, ice hockey and ball hockey at the Pla­cen­tia-based school.

Ed Jarvis is the coach of the fe­male bas­ket­ball team at Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate. It is not a sport known for its con­cus­sions, but they can hap­pen. He dealt with two last sea­son that kept play­ers out for weeks.

“You have to take any blow to the head se­ri­ously,” he said. “You can’t mess around with head in­juries. If it does hap­pen, I’d like to know that I did ev­ery­thing I could.”

The num­bers

A study con­ducted by the Cana­dian Pe­di­atric So­ci­ety in 2012 found con­cus­sions ac­count for nine to 12 per cent of all high school in­juries.

Amongst chil­dren aged 10 to 14, 53.4 per cent of head in­juries were con­cus­sions. That num­ber dipped slightly to 42.9 per cent for ath­letes be­tween the ages of 15 and 19.

While the study is three years old, those num­bers likely still hold some value.

“It’d be in­ter­est­ing to see the stats on ef­fects of head in­juries over time,” said Gam­bin.

Keep­ing them out

High school ath­letes, just like their pro­fes­sional cousins, are in­clined to stay in the game af­ter tak­ing a knock to the head.

“The big thing is to play it safe and keep them out,” said Dixon. “If you have any doubt, keep them out of the game. Gen­er­ally, it is some­thing they’re go­ing to take a while to get over.

”A lot of the time, it’ll take them a week, two weeks to get over it, what­ever the case may be.”

For now, coaches must sit in front of a com­puter to take the course, but Gam­bin sug­gests another method might be more ef­fec­tive.

“It’d be bet­ter if it was a faceto-face thing,” he said. “It’s a good start. Coaches need the knowl­edge. There are dif­fer­ent signs and I def­i­nitely learned some­thing.”

“It’s a nice thing to have in your back pocket,” said Jarvis. “It’s more about be­ing aware and proac­tive. You hope you never have to use it.”

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate fe­male bas­ket­ball coach Ed Jarvis, seen here in a file photo, un­der­stands the se­ri­ous­ness of head in­juries. Last sea­son, two of his play­ers had to stay away from the hard­court for sev­eral weeks while re­cu­per­at­ing from con­cus­sions.

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