Schools beefing up concussion awareness

BY KEVIN WOODRUFF

Schools across Pennsylvania are increasing concussion awareness and training after new legislation passed this month requiring coaches to be certified to recognize concussion symptoms.

According to Tunkhannock Area athletic director Ken Janiszewski, Tiger coaches have begun taking the course.

Janiszewski said that he has already taken the course, and noted that it provides coaches with helpful information to recognize symptoms of concussion.

He said that across the state all coaches, including volunteers, are now required to take the course offered either by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) or the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

In addition, coaches will also have to be certified to recognize symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest.

In addition to the certification for coaches, Tunkhannock for the past several years has used “IMPACT” software, which helps identify concussion symptoms in athletes.

Each athlete at the beginning of the year takes a cognitive test on the computer to create a baseline. If the athlete is then injured, he/she will take the test again to see if there are any differences.

Janiszewski said that another change that came along with concussion training for coaches, is that now only a medical doctor can clear an athlete to play after a concussion.

Pennsylvania Interschoolastic Athletic Association (PIAA) assistant executive director Melissa Mertz said on Friday that the new legislation makes mandatory a recommendation the PIAA implemented two years ago.

“Starting two years ago we stated in our physical form that we recommend all coaches be trained to recognize concussion symptoms,” Mertz said. “But now with the new legislation, it became mandatory.”

Mertz said the general assembly worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Department of Education to come up with the new guidelines.

“We (PIAA) think it’s very important for coaches to be familiar with concussion symptoms,” Mertz said.

Mertz said that it’s been a delicate issue over the years, and the PIAA has never taken a stand on requiring the training.

“Many schools across the state struggle to find coaches,” Mertz said. “So we didn’t want to make it a required certification.”

However, Mertz said the safety of athletes is in the forefront of PIAA.

“We certainly cannot overlook the safety of our student-athletes,” Mertz said.