Sports concussion panel looks at costs, definitions
By Anna Grearson
Staff writer | August 03,2013
WILLISTON — The task force that will recommend how to implement Vermont’s latest law addressing concussions in high school sports is discussing how widely to apply some potentially expensive requirements.
The group had its second meeting Thursday at state offices in Williston.
It is set to explore the part of the bill that requires Vermont high schools that offer collision sports to have medical personnel at all home games of those sports. “Athletic event” was determined to mean games between two schools, but questions surrounding scrimmages and other non-practice events were brought up.
Another issue is which sports should be designated as “collision” sports. The bill uses the American Academy of Pediatrics definition (football, wrestling, ice hockey and lacrosse), but the task force is considering whether others should be added.
The task force consists of nine representatives from various state agencies, private practice and a student-athlete; five were present for Thursday’s meeting.
“I think it differs from the actual committee work in Montpelier,” said Alan Maynard, athletic trainer at BFA-Fairfax and president of the Vermont Association of Athletic Trainers, after the 90-minute meeting. “It gives us a chance to work more creatively, and when you’re working with recommendations instead of law, it’s funny how you get closer to best practice, especially when there’s a financial aspect.”
Part of the law requiring schools to have an action plan for concussion management went into effect July 1, while the medical personnel requirement will not kick in until the 2015-2016 academic year after the task force has had adequate time to research the numerous implications of the full law.
“It’s exciting to have more conversations about how we can make athletes even safer,” Maynard said. “I think these recommendations that we’re coming up with are really actually going to get us there. ... It’s refreshing to not have those confines of the financial aspect, even though we do have to think about it. We can really think about those best practices.”
Those best practices brought up at Thursday’s meeting involved which sports to designate as “collision” versus “contact.” The committee is interested in exploring data that may or may not back up the addition of soccer, basketball and field hockey to the list contained in the bill.
The availability of reliable, accurate data poses a challenge in itself because concussion reporting is not yet standardized, nor are the reports separated by sport, according to those in the meeting.
Also, the group acknowledged that adding sports to the collision list adds to the cost for schools to adequately staff collision-sport games. Currently the Vermont Principals’ Association requires medical personnel to be present at football and hockey games.
The financial impact on smaller schools continues to be a hot-button issue. Maynard estimated it would cost schools that don’t already have the coverage the law mandates an additional $11,600 to provide coverage.
“That number jumps exponentially if contact sports are added,” he said.
Hiring for coverage for a school district as opposed to each school was also discussed.
Trevor Squirrell of the Brain Injury Association of Vermont and the Vermont Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Board opened the meeting with a progress report on the release of the School Sports Concussion Toolkit, designed to assist schools in creating their concussion management action plans regarding injured students’ return to athletics.
That toolkit is available at the Brain Injury Association of Vermont’s website at http://www.biavt.org.
The group will meet again in mid-September and hopes to address more financial concerns then.
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