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Huntington Gets Serious About Concussions

A concussion is no laughing matter. Such an injury is being taken much more seriously by athletic programs on every level from youth to professional sports organizations and teams.

The Huntington School Board recently approved a plan that aims to provide additional layers of protection for Blue Devil athletes, including those at J. Taylor Finley Middle School. "This new protocol is aligned with concussion management policies and practices under consideration by other districts," Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky said.

Huntington acted on the heels of a recommendation by the National Federation of High School Associations and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association that districts adopt a formal concussion management policy, protocol or standard of care.

The new protocol was designed by the district's full-time athletic trainer Kelly Hatzmann. Mrs. Hatzmann worked with school district physician John M Colletta, MD to develop the plan. She reviewed it with Georgia D. McCarthy, district director of health, physical education and athletics and Mr. Polansky.

"Kelly was instrumental in getting this program up and running in Huntington," Mrs. McCarthy said. Mrs. Hatzmann spoke with Huntington High School grad Dr. David Weissberg, an orthopedic surgeon who provides services at Huntington's middle school, junior varsity and varsity football games. Dr. Weissberg helped arrange the participation of Rudansky & Winter, MD, PC, a leading neurology and behavioral neuropsychiatry practice located on New York Avenue, in Huntington's concussion management program.

Rudansky & Winter, MD, PC has agreed to address the needs of Blue Devil student-athletes who might lack health insurance or be otherwise hampered by coverage limitations.

"I am very excited that we are going to protect our student-athletes and continue to promote safety and success in interscholastic athletics," Mrs. Hatzmann said.

The new protocol for student-athletes who sustain a concussion during interscholastic sports participation includes:

• The injured student-athlete is immediately removed from activity until further notice.

• Evaluation and completion of the NYSPHSAA concussion checklist is made by the district athletic trainer or sideline MD, if present.

• EMS is notified if needed. Parent/guardian of student-athlete is notified and provided with copy of completed NYSPHSAA checklist.

• The athletic director is notified and injury report is generated by athletic trainer.

• Follow-up phone calls made by athletic trainer to monitor progress/regression.

• Referral to a neurologist within 72 hours of injury will be strongly recommended to the parent/guardian.

• Based on a neurologist's findings/recommendations, the student-athlete will begin the return to activity protocol with the district's athletic trainer (in communication with and under the direction of neurologist.)

• Once the protocol is completed, a neurologist suggests return to full activity.

• The district's chief medical officer appointed by the Huntington School Board will review the documentation received from the trainer and family physician/neurologist, and will make the final determination regarding the student athlete's unrestricted return to activity.

No activity is to resume until a neurologist "deems a student-athlete to be asymptomatic," according to the new protocol. Once activity is permitted, it must begin with light exercise, such as stationary bicycling, jogging, etc., before progressing to more moderate sport-specific activity such as running and even sprinting and non-contact drills. Return to full-contact activity will only be permitted following the recommendation of the family physician/neurologist and upon a final determination made by the district's chief medical officer.

"In addition to all of these procedures, we plan on employing a district-wide assessment tool for the management of concussions," Mrs. McCarthy said. "It's called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing). This is a computerized evaluation system that will determine a student-athlete's baseline function level. These baseline tests will help the physicians determine an athlete's readiness to return to activity."

Huntington School Board members were unanimous in their support of the new protocol. "We look forward to the full implementation of this protocol and believe it will provide an additional layer of protection for Huntington student-athletes," Mr. Polansky said.

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