MHSAA, local trainers remain focused on head injuries

Published 8:44 am Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Concussions continue to be a focus of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

The MHSAA at its annual Representative Council winter meeting March 24 in East Lansing discussed its increased effort to make sure student-athletes and their parents or guardians receive as much education information on concussions as possible.

The Representative Council could take action at its spring meeting in May, which would include additions to the MHSAA physical exam/clearance/consent form.

The council did vote last month a mandate that all students and their parents or guardians sign a post-concussion consent form.

The form would acknowledge that they had received information on potential risk factors prior to returning to activity following a concussion.

Locally, athletic trainers follow the regulations set forth by the MHSAA, while also using Lakeland Hospital and Beacon Medical Group Sports Medicine as additional resources.

Bob Taylor, who has been the Niles High School athletic trainer since 1998, not only follows the state athletic association guidelines, but also uses Lakeland’s concussion clinic in St. Joseph.

“We basically follow all of the regulations set forth by the MHSAA,” Taylor said. “We still utilize our impact concussion testing. Most of the doctors around here will refer them there anyways. They do a deep evaluation and recheck after their steps are complete throughout the week.”

For the past two years, the Niles football program has worn Guardian Caps covers, not only in practice, but in games.

Guardian Caps are a soft-shell helmet cover that reportedly reduces the impact of a hit by 33 percent.

Due to the number of concussions the Vikings had in 2014, former Niles coach Antwon Jones decided that something had to be done to help protect his players.

Although no helmet, pad or practice apparatus can reduce or prevent concussions, helping reduce the impact of a helmet-to-helmet hit is still important.

New Niles football coach Joe Sassano will not be using Guardian Caps this coming season.

Kara Werner-Sanders, who works for Beacon Medical Group Sports Medicine and is the Edwardsburg High School athletic trainer, feels the MHSAA is doing its best to stay on top of the concussion issue.

“I think it is great that MHSAA continues to keep itself informed and wants to make sure that parents and student athletes remain informed of the risks associated with participating in athletics,” she said. “Education is one of the keys in prevention, and the great partnership that EHS has with Beacon Medical Group Sports Medicine makes it possible for us to keep parents and student athletes educated and informed on important health issues in athletics.”

Like Lakeland, Beacon Medical Group Sports Medicine is a concussion clinic, and assists Werner-Sanders with head related injuries.

Edwardsburg athletes and parents are required to sign and read the heads up concussion information before participating in athletics.

“Athletes also receive education about concussions, and hydration from me before the season during baseline concussion testing,” she said. “I also provide information to parents when I am brought in on parent meetings that the coaches have.

“If an athlete sustains a concussion there is another packet of information and consent forms given to the parents and I usually talk in depth with that parent either in person or on the phone about the procedures we follow, what to expect from the injury, and the steps that need to be taken next by the parent, athlete and myself.”

Education remains a key and local athletic trainers and the MHSAA will continue to be vigil in their efforts to make high school sports as safe as possible.

The representative council at its May meeting make also standardize MHSAA rules/risk management meeting content for assistant and sub-varsity coaches and increasing the frequency of in-depth concussion information within those meeting.

At the same time, it will continue to focus on other health and safety topics such as heat illness, sudden cardiac arrest and overuse injuries.