The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night adopted a new policy on first reading as recommended by the Tennessee School Boards Association intended to reduce concussions in youth sports and increase awareness about the traumatic brain injury.
The policy is not just an option. A new state law, which passed in April and takes effect January 1, will make learning about the dangers of concussions a prerequisite for competing, while also implementing safeguards to ensure that children who suffer a concussion don't return to play until they are healed.
Tennessee is the 44th state to pass this law.
Under the policy, it will be up to local youth leagues for all sports, not just football, to put into practice. The law will apply to public and private school teams and to recreational leagues for children under 18 that require a fee.
It has three key components.
It requires administrators, coaches, parents and youth athletes to be educated about the dangers of concussions and to sign a sheet stating they understand those dangers before competing. Any athlete who displays the symptoms of a concussion would be required to be removed from competition. And any athlete suffering a concussion could not return to play or practice until cleared by a doctor, osteopath or neuropsychologist.
"We just got this on Tuesday but I think this is a minimum standard that you have to adhere to. I have heard that some counties are even going more stringent than this, said Attendance Supervisor Joey Reeder during Thursday night's school board meeting. "We think this came from the Department of Health. TSSAA also has a concussion policy. We may have some questions about some of our youth leagues that use our facilities and getting those approved. That is something we'll have to look at between now and next month. We all know concussions are at the forefront of everything right now. We certainly want all of our student athletes healthy when they go to play. I assume if the TSBA approved this (policy) they have checked it pretty thoroughly. My biggest question is Junior Pro Football and Basketball, There is a check list that all coaches have to sign that they have been trained," he said.
Concerned about the school system's responsibility, First District board member John David Foutch asked about a portion of the regulations "Tennessee Protocol for Registered Officials During Contests" which calls for a determination prior to the start of the contest as to whether a school/community-based youth athletic organization has access to a designated health care professional during the contest".
"Designated health care professionals are certified athletic trainers, licensed nurse practitioners, physician's assistants, medical doctors, or osteopathic physicians".
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby said he hopes to have answers to all the questions about the new law by the time the Board acts on second and final reading of the policy next month.
National Federation of State High School Associations has developed a free 20 minute course online
entitled "Concussion in Sports-What You Need to Know". The course may be accessed at www.nfhslearn.com
The Tennessee Department of Health has concussion information available online at http://health.state.tn.us/TBI/concussion.htm.
In other business, Director Willoughby updated the school board on personnel moves since last month's meeting.
Those employed are as follows:
Amanda Trapp, educational assistant at SES
Linda Knight-Gatlin, teacher DWS
Myra Fox, educational assistant SES
Adrianna McCormick, Polly Wilkins, Roalinda Cervantes, as sub cafeteria workers
Michael Washer, part time cafeteria worker SES
Joyce Alexander and Tonya Perry, substitute teachers
Taylor McDaniel,teacher at DCHS (filling a Leave of Absence)
Andria Keith, substitute nurse
Gail Crips, Secretary NES retired
Melanie Molander,teacher DWS resigned
Tonya Perry, substitute teacher
Leave of Absence
Lindsey Bouldin, teacher SES leave as requested
Mollie Bratten, teacher NES leave as requested
Trena Curtis, teacher SES leave as requested
Lisa Hull, teacher SES leave as requested
Jane Watson, teacher DWS leave as requested
Robbie Joan Frazier transferred from substitute to educational assistant at NES
Tena Edwards, transferred from educational assistant to Secretary at NES