Martinsville High School Athletic Director, Don Lipps knows that the number of concussions in his school is more than it was five years ago. But, the higher number’s not necessarily due to the increased commonality of concussions.
It’s a result of increased awareness by coaches, parents, and players.
“We don’t have a whole lot of concussions,” Lipps said. “But, we’ve had quite a few athletes – football and soccer players – who have been treated and come back on a management plan. Because of the raised awareness, we have had more than prior to the new changes.”
Currently, Martinsville has a comprehensive concussion policy. All coaches, regardless of pay status, must take an online class through the Department of Education regarding concussion signs and awareness. Athletes and their parents must also read awareness fliers and sign a paper informing the school they understand the information presented on the flier.
If a player were to be diagnosed with a concussion, they must be cleared by a physician and complete a concussion management plan.
Realizing the scale concussions affect high schools and their athletes, Indiana has become the first state in the nation to require concussion-awareness training for high school and youth football coaches. In addition to the training, suspected concussed players will not be able to return to play until 24 hours have passed after receiving medical clearance.
The policy takes effect July 1.
Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Muncie, says the idea for the bill – now law – arose from concerned parties approaching him for help. They wanted programs put into place that the Department of Education could certify.
“This is sort of a continuation in regards to concussion training and awareness,” Holdman said. “Two years ago, we passed a protocol that affects IHSAA sports and requires [the player to be removed from play] and evaluated. It’s just a continuation of that same type of program dealing with concussion injuries.”
Looking towards the next legislative session, Holdman has no plans to expand the policy to other high school sports. Other sports, like rugby and soccer, have not approached him about putting a similar state policy in place. But, Holdman isn’t ruling out an expansion in the future.
Lipps is content with the state law addressing only football – especially when considering his school’s budget.
“I’m not sure about expanding the policy to all high school sports. We have to use good judgment because of finances,” Lipps said. “Some sports should be mandatory - like football. But it’s not really necessary for golf or tennis. If anyone has history, then it should be mandatory regardless of what sport they play. But, having the policy across the board doesn’t make much sense.”
Indiana-based USA Football is the national governing body for youth football. As a leader in developing programs for sports education and training, the organization agrees with the IHSAA and NCAA when it comes to standards in coaching.
“The health and safety of every athlete is our number one priority,” USA Football spokesman Steve Alic said. “ “Concussions are not a boy issue, a girl issue, or a football issue. It’s a sports issue. Awareness is converted into action. [Our programs and the law] help empower parents, coaches and players if a concussion is suspected.”
Hannah Troyer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.