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The Capital (Annapolis, MD)
Everything went black.
Matthew Costa was ready to return a punt for the Southern High School football team, but before he could react, he was blindsided.
"I literally turned around and the guy was in my face," said the 2012 graduate, who suffered a concussion from that hit three years ago.
Costa, the son of Del. Bob Costa, R-Deale, felt better within moments of returning to the sideline. The next day his pupils were dilated and he had high blood pressure - common post-concussion symptoms.
"The coaches didn't even let me run at practice," said Costa, a sophomore at Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania who plays on the football team's offensive line.
The Anne Arundel County Board of Education will vote on a six-page policy Wednesday that outlines how school personnel should handle injuries like Costa's.
Parents will receive verbal and written notification if their child in injured. Coaches will have to complete training every two years during which they'll learn how to recognize concussions and what their response should be.
Symptoms of a concussion may include loss of consciousness, slurred speech, drowsiness and seizures.
Physical education teachers will also be required to complete training every two years. All student athletes and their parents or guardians will receive a concussion awareness form each year.
If an athlete suffers a concussion, he or she must be evaluated by a licensed health care provider and be cleared before playing again.
"The biggest component of any concussion management plan is how to deal with returning students to play," said Greg Legrand, the school system's athletic coordinator.
The policy isn't just for student athletes, said Legrand, who worked on it with Karen Siska, director of school health for the Anne Arundel County Department of Health. It also covers students who are injured during the school day or on field trips.
Awareness of the dangers of concussions has grown in recent years. Last fall, a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics cautioned against an immediate return to school for students who suffered concussions.
"They're recognizing more and more the impact it could have on a child's education," Siska said.
As a parent, Ronnie Creek is no stranger to concussions.
His son Brett, a sophomore at Southern High School, suffered a concussion last fall playing football. Creek was watching from the stands.
"They called me at halftime," Creek said. "He didn't know where he was or what was going on."
Brett had already gotten a concussion playing basketball when he was younger.
Creek said he missed school for a week and had to undergo several medical tests. But he had no complaints about how the school handled his son's injury.
"You try to keep an eye on your kid, but you just don't know," he said.
Creek, along with Matthew Costa's father Bob, is part of a group of Southern High parents raising money to buy new helmets and concussion-resistant shoulder pads for the high school's football team as well as for the local recreation league.
Bob Costa said this week the group has raised $20,000, or about half the money needed to buy the helmets and shoulder pads.
The state legislators said the policy is a good idea overall, and coaches have to err on the side of caution when there's an injured athlete.
"But a lot of times, you get your bell rung, so to speak," Costa said. "The coach, out of safety, pulls you out and 15 minutes later, you're clear, conscious, alert."
What if that's the day a college talent scout happens to be watching? Costa wondered.
"That's the balance you have to determine," he said.
The athletics department adopted a concussion policy about three years ago, Legrand said. This newer version is the result of a state law that requires all county school systems to establish guidelines for head injuries.