Get Ready to Field Questions about Concussions this School Year

With the start of the school year fast approaching, physicians in many specialties know that questions about concussions will soon come their way.

Since July 2012, Pennsylvania’s state law to improve the monitoring of concussions in interscholastic athletes has set up safeguards for student athletes and their parents.

In addition to brushing up on the law, physicians can also give their patients information through an article from the Pennsylvania Health News Service Project, which highlights state health laws that impact high school athletics.

With the help of the Pennsylvania Neurosurgical Society, Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology along with the Pennsylvania Medical Society, the PHNS Project tackles state laws on concussions and sudden cardiac arrest while also looking at ACL and eye injuries.

“Most people associate a big hit with a concussion, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Bruce MacLeod, MD, past president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED), which lobbied in favor of the law.  “Soccer players ‘heading’ the ball have been known to develop concussions. All it really takes is the brain shaking around inside a person’s head.”

The state law has several parts. The most important section of the law is likely the mandatory online training course that each coach must complete every year.  The course, titled “Concussion in Sports – What You Need To Know” and provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations, walks a coach through the science behind concussions and trains them to recognize the symptoms.  Coaches are taught “when in doubt, sit them out.”

The state law goes beyond just education, providing guidance on the steps that must be taken for a student-athlete to return to competition.

Thanks to a grant made possible by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers’ Society (PATS) is partnering with PAMED, DOH, and Sport Safety International (SSI) to conduct DOH approved ConcussionWise™ trainings. The ConcussionWise™ DR program for physicians, accredited for CME by PAMED, is an online education initiative to provide all Pennsylvania physicians with culturally competent, skills-based traumatic brain injury (TBI) education and ensure they are knowledgeable on current peer-reviewed research about the evaluation and management of concussions.