New Concussion Law Celebrated In Westport

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Joined by students, lawmakers and advocates, Gov. Dan Malloy visited Staples High School in Westport today, where he commemorated the enactment of legislation that requires the Connecticut State Board of Education to develop a plan aimed at reducing the number of concussions sustained by student athletes. The plan also must institute proper procedures schools should take following concussions experienced by students during school athletics.

As mandated in Public Act 14-66, the concussion education plan will be used by local and regional boards of education, which will be responsible for implementing the plan using written materials, online training or videos, or in-person training. In addition, the law requires school districts to annually collect and report all concussions to the State Board of Education.

The ceremonial signing of the bill, which actually became law in May, took place in Westport because it the hometown of three mothers who were instrumental in pushing the bill forward. Each of their sons' lives were changed by concussions.

“He missed three months of school one year,” said Ann Sherwood of her son. “And, after the second one, he had to quit contact sports. So, for him, that was life changing.”

Sherwood, Pippa Bell Ader and Diana Coyne came together to form the Parents Concussion Coalition. Ader says her son now has some permanent challenges. But, thankfully, they didn't end up being as severe as the initial diagnosed in 2007 suggested.

“He lost the ability to write clearly and he actually went from reading at a grade-six level down to a grade-two level,” said Ader.

Coyne’s son, Chris, sustained five concussions while playing football for Staples High School. He hid them from his parents until he started playing football at Yale, where another concussion ended his playing career.

“He had serious memory issues,” said Coyne. “He needed a note taker. Yale gave him a note taker to follow him to all of his classes.” That was during his freshman year. Coyne says her son, now a senior, is roughly 90 percent recovered.

Sacred Heart University is one of a couple of schools nationally conducting concussion research on athletes who play America’s fastest growing sport: lacrosse. In January, they began measuring the effects of the impacts men’s lacrosse players take to the head during the course of the season and their career.

“Such as neurocognitive functioning is a big one, IQ, depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol screens,” said Dr. Theresa Miyashita, of Sacred Heart University

Some of the early information they have been able to glean is that the positioning of the sensors inside a helmet will yield very different data depending on where they are placed. Sacred Heart players have them right next to their jawbone. Some other schools conducting the research use helmets that have room to place the sensors inside the crown of the helmet.

“Those appear to be more accurate readings and more reliable information for us to correlate sub-concussive impacts with the actual quantity of that impact,” said Miyashita, who adds that the revamped Connecticut concussion law does not go far enough. She believes it also needs to cover youth athletes playing for recreation leagues or travel teams.

Here are the parameters of the law, as outlined by the Connecticut General Assembly's website:

  • Requiring the State Board of Education to develop or approve a concussion education plan
  • Requiring the operators of youth athletic activities to provide information on concussions to youth athletes and their parents and guardians
  • Requiring youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion to provide written clearance from a medical professional prior to returning to the athletic activity
  • Limiting full contact practices to ninety minutes per week
  • Requiring local and regional boards of education to compile and report all instances of concussions suffered by children in school.

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