Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Proposal to implement concussion evaluation tools in high schools held for further discussion

The Committee on Education heard testimonies on several bills today. One of the more interesting ones is a proposal, introduced by Rep. Marilyn Lee, which would require Hawaii public high schools to examine all their football players with concussion evaluation tools.

The bill states:
The department shall implement use of a concussion evaluation tool and apply the tool to evaluate each student athlete participating in the sport of football in public high schools throughout the State.
The majority of today's testifiers were unsatisfied with the bill's language; particularly that other high school sports teams and female student athletes were excluded.

Many of them supported the intent of the bill, but objected to the present language.

"To address only football would neglect the health and safety needs of the entire population of student athletes participation in contact sports," said Patricia Hamamoto, Superintendent of the Dept. of Education, in her testimony to the committee.

According to an article in last months issue of Journal of Athletic Training, a study found that girls sustain a higher rate of concussions compared to boys.

Although football players have a higher percentage of concussion incidents per year, only focusing efforts on them would ignore nearly 40 percent of injured high school athletes. Last season, all sports, excluding football, accounted for 39 percent of injuries.

The bill would require schools to use ImPact (immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing) or a similar evaluation tool, which would need clinical neuropsychologists to interpret the results of brain testing. Several testimonies reiterated that one can't assume that all athletic trainers will have the formal training in neuropsychological testing.

Although ImPact provides coaches, athletes and parents with an objective piece of data, interpreting the data has been a major concern at the seven Hawaii schools that have been testing ImPact, said Superintendent Hamamoto in her testimony.

The second issue with the bill is the ability of the Dept. of Education to administer tests on 400 - 800 student athletes in contact sports. It may be physically impossible because of time, personnel and equipment restraints.

Everyone involved in the discussion seemed to agree that something should be done to protect student athletes from permanent injuries caused by concussions that are not recognized or made aware of before returning to play; however because of the overwhelming opposition and the existence of unanswered questions, the Committee on Education moved to hold the bill for further discussion.

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