The National Federation of State High School Associations has released tougher rules about removing players with potential concussions from the field. The initial release outlines the changes:
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The previous rule directed officials to remove an athlete from play if “unconscious or apparently unconscious.” The previous rule also allowed for return to play based on written authorization by a medical doctor. Now, officials are charged with removing any player who shows signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion, such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems, and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health-care professional.
The Tampa Tribune‘s Mary Shedden and Katherine Smith reported on how the change would affect Florida high school football and on how implementations of the new rule vary from district to district.
Language in the new rule is vague, stating a player can’t return until cleared by a “health-care representative.” In Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, players will need a doctor’s clearance, but Pasco officials may interpret the rule to include medical officials who were at the game, said Phil Bell, Pasco’s supervisor of athletic programs and facilities.
The best-known guidelines for returning to the game come from a sports medicine expert consortium in Zurich. It recommends athletes gradually return to activities, from light aerobic activity to noncontact drills to game day. Each step takes a minimum of 24 hours, and if symptoms return, an athlete must revert to the previous step.
Texas, Oregon and Washington have state laws mandating when players should be taken off the field; many other states rely on their athletic associations to format such rules. With the school year and football season getting under way, this would be a good time for reporters to check on the policies at local schools. Read more about concussions, including some recent reports and Congressional testimony.