Head Coaching

Introducing a new concussion-education program for high school athletes, parents and coaches.

Although much has been written about the importance of identifying a concussion - more than 300,000 sports-related traumatic brain injuries occur in the United States every year - the message still struggles to get through to high school athletic administrators and coaches. With the majority of the nation's 20,000 high schools still unable to boast the use of certified athletic trainers (ATCs), the need to prevent, recognize and manage concussions in interscholastic athletics is arguably more important than ever.

That's why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in conjunction with several noted medical, sports and educational organizations, recently kicked off an awareness initiative called "Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports." A free tool kit provides a concussion guide, a quick-reference wallet card and a clipboard sticker for coaches; fact sheets for athletes and parents; and an educational video and posters (above).

"Everybody has to take ownership in identifying the signs and symptoms of a concussion and do something when they see them. If people don't, they could end up going to a funeral," says Jon Almquist, chairman of the National Athletic Trainers' Association's Secondary School Athletic Trainers' Committee and the man who oversees 50 ATCs at Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools. He recommends getting "Heads Up" kits into the hands of youth-sports administrators, too, so they can incorporate concussion awareness into their coaching-education programs.

Almquist ordered one kit each for all 25 public high schools in Fairfax County, which has been ahead of the national curve for years by requiring the equivalent of one-and-a-half full-time ATCs at each school. "I can't stand here and say we have prevented someone from dying, because we don't know that," Almquist says. "But I'll tell you this: We have been able to identify kids who have had severe concussions who would have gone home that night without getting their heads checked if we hadn't intervened. When the information in the CDC kit is understood by more people, the advantages will be remarkable."

To obtain a free copy of the tool kit, visit www.cdc.gov/ncipc/tbi/coaches_tool_kit.htm.

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