“If there is any doubt, you sit them out.”
That’s how Clay Abla, Littleton Public Schools director of secondary education, summarizes the new concussion-management protocol.
The new rules stem from last year’s passage of the “Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act,” co-sponsored by Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, and named for a Grandview High School football player who died in 2004 after his concussion went unrecognized.
The law applies to youth athletes ages 11-19. It requires coaches to undergo annual training to recognize concussions and to have the final say, after medical clearance, as to whether the athlete can return to play. The student must be immediately pulled from the game and parents must be notified if a concussion is suspected.
The biggest change is a minimum six-day break, starting when behavior returns to normal without medication, before the student can return to full game play. Previously, the student would have been able to jump right back in as soon as she was back to her baseline. School principals will have the final say regarding any appeals.
Administrators worried that clause would cause consternation for parents who wanted to see their kids get back on the horse, as it were. But Abla said there’s been full support since LPS started enforcing the new regulations last August.
One result is that, for the first time, LPS began tracking the number of student athletes who sustain concussions. Last year at the high school level, there were 121 total: 57 at Heritage, 40 at Arapahoe and 24 at Littleton. Most of those occurred in fall, which is dominated by the football season.
At the middle schools, there were three at Powell, one at Euclid and none at Goddard or Newton. However, there were an additional six at Goddard, two at Newton and one at Euclid that happened outside of school. Abla acknowledged those are the hardest to track, because the district has to rely on the student or parents to let them know. He said that will be a focus going forward, along with making sure all concussion victims get the help they need to keep up in school.
“How do we work with them academically?” he said. “There are long-term consequences to some of these.”
Board member Sue Chandler said she appreciates that LPS has gone beyond what is required by the new law.
“But how can we make sure we’re looking at the learning side of it as well as the athletic side?” she wondered.