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New Concussion Protocols for High School Athletes

By Kit Pohl, PT, CBIS
Physical Therapist
Troy Neuro Skills Center

Beginning with the 2010-2011 school year, there will be a new concussion protocol for all high school athletes who are governed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association. Under the new rules, any athlete “who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) shall be immediately removed from the contest and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health care professional.”

Game officials or coaches will no longer have a role in determining if an athlete has sustained a concussion. An apparently injured athlete must be examined by a health care professional to determine the extent of the injury. If the school’s designated health care professional determines that the student did not sustain a concussion, the athlete may reenter the competition. If a concussion is confirmed, the athlete may not return to competition that day. The return-to-play protocol requires: 1) only an MD or DO may clear the individual to return to competition 2) the clearance must be in writing 3) the clearance may not be on the same date on which the athlete was removed from play.

The MHSAA has also approved sanctions for non-compliance with the concussion management policy. With a first offense, the competition is forfeited and the school is placed on probation in that sport through the end of the following year. A second offense in that sport will result in an extension of the probation for an additional year and the school will be prohibited from participating in the MHSAA post-season tournament.

This ruling reflects the change in attitude that a concussion is more than a bump on the head. New studies are finding that repeated concussions can cause permanent brain damage that eventually shows up a depression, chronic headaches, early-onset dementia and/or adult-onset attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The MHSAA is working with the Brain Injury Association of Michigan to promote public awareness of concussions in youth sports and the new MHSAA concussion protocol.