The Herald Bulletin

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Local Sports

June 23, 2012

Locals welcome change in concussion rules

ANDERSON — Doug Bellar was playing football for Highland in the 1970s when he was involved in a violent collision with a player from Alexandria.

He felt dizzy and disoriented after the hit, but he stood on the sidelines for just five plays before going back into the game.

“When I played, they just stuck us back in there,” Bellar said during a phone interview Saturday. “And the helmets weren’t near as good as they are now.”

Now the athletic director at Alexandria, Bellar is glad to see the concussion-related changes that have come to high school sports. And he’s trying to keep the Tigers ahead of the game.

A new state law that takes effect July 1 requires schools to educate athletes and their parents about how to spot concussion symptoms and what steps will be taken before the athlete can return to competition. The latter portion includes gaining clearance from an independent medical professional.

Bellar passed out four-page documents to his athletes and their parents while the players were undergoing physicals in May. He estimates 90 percent of the Tigers’ athletes already have returned signed forms from their parents. The rest will be taken care of before the fall season begins in August.

The law goes further than the IHSAA’s existing guidelines in part because it includes sports that aren’t sanctioned by the IHSAA such as bowling and archery. And it could eventually be interpreted to include all athletic activities, even those that take place in physical education classes.

Anderson athletic director Steve Schindler, himself a former athletic trainer, likes the new law because it gives his coaches an extra set of eyes in protecting their athletes.

“As a parent (under the new law), you’re going to be a little more aware of what to look for yourself,” Schindler said. “You’re going to be more aware of what the signs and symptoms (of a concussion) are. A lot of times, parents aren’t aware of what to look for.”

They also might not even be aware they should be looking.

High-risk sports such as football are obvious targets for concussion education. But injury is possible in any athletic endeavor.

With the education protocols under the new law, parents in every sport will know what to look for to protect their children.

The schools also will continue to be vigilant.

Bellar said Alexandria has a trainer present every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for after-school activities. There’s a trainer on site at every home and away football game and a trainer present at each home game in all the Tigers’ sports.

If a player suffers contact to the head and a concussion is suspected, the trainer will run a test to see if the athlete should consult a physician.

St. John’s Health System offered free baseline tests to each school in Madison County last year. Bellar said Alexandria’s trainer was present for those tests and is responsible for administering follow-up tests when a concussion is suspected.

Even before the state law was written, Alexandria was waiting for medical clearance to return athletes to the competition. Schindler said that protocol is consistent at every school that employs athletic trainers.

“You’d rather be too cautious than not cautious enough,” Bellar said.

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