Ohio Concussion Law Affecting Trainers

One second.

That’s how long it took for two soccer players to collide as they were going for the header that would decide the game. Senior athletic training major Ben Dixson recognized the concussion right away because he has been trained to look for the signs and symptoms exhibited by the player.

House Bill 143, Ohio’s return-to-play law, went into effect on April 26. The law imposes training, safety and symptom awareness requirements on youth sports organizations across the state, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Before the law was passed, Ohio had no regulations for removing a student athlete from the field for a concussion or any other injury.

The law – which affects interscholastic sports from peewee level through high school – says if an authority at the game suspects a student athlete has a concussion, that student should be pulled off the field immediately. The athlete is not allowed to return to play that day. Additionally, sidelined competitors cannot return to play until they have been cleared by an appropriate health care provider.

Dixson said most Cedarville athletic training clinical instructors have reviewed the return-to-play law with their athletic training students, and the athletic trainers in the high schools were eager to teach the students about the law.

Dixson learned about the return-to-play law from the athletic trainer he worked with last spring. He said the law is in the athletes’ best interest and something that should have been done sooner.

Athletic training professor Chris Cross said enforcing this new law will be difficult.

“Back when I was playing high school sports, if you got hit in the head, you got your bell rung, it was a badge of honor,” said Cross, who is also the head athletic trainer at Cedarville.

“You still have those old-school coaches who think the player will be fine,” Cross said. “It’s really trying to shift culture, trying to shift a mindset.”

According to Cross, only 40 percent of high schools in Ohio have athletic trainers. Often, the coach is the one who decides whether to remove an athlete from a game. Coaches were not required to have experience in diagnosing or managing concussions before the law was enacted.

Now that the return-to-play law is enacted, the next step is having an athletic trainer on the sidelines of every high school game, Cross said.

“If we do not change the culture, and we keep sending kids out there,” he said, “we are going to predispose our student athletes to a myriad of problems.”

“The media is publicizing concussions a lot more today, which is increasing awareness,” said Hannah Stedge, athletic training clinical education coordinator.

Becca Williams, a senior athletic training student, said during her clinical rotations, the severity of the injuries she has encountered has ranged from minor incidents where the athlete is back in a week to injuries preventing the athlete from returning to play for over a month.

Williams said if an athlete has a history of several concussions, he will get concussions more easily, and each concussion will take longer to heal than the last one. Williams is currently working with an athlete who has had her sixth concussion.

Williams said dealing with an injury has a physical and mental component, she said, and concussions can negatively affect an athlete’s ability to concentrate in class.

“Going to Cedarville, you have the whole spiritual aspect to consider as well,” Williams said. “You have to remind the athlete that God is in control of the situation.”

Dixson said athletic training students are basically part of the team they are working with.

“You get to develop relationships with the athletes, coaches and athletic training staff,” Dixson said.

Often times, athletes will not tell the trainers of an injury right away.

“We can only do as much as we can with the information the athletes give to us,” Williams said. “It is important for us to work with the team closely and build their trust.”

Dixson said athletes sometimes fake a low score on a preseason test that measures brain function.

“Some people try to cheat the system the first time so that if they do get a concussion, it will seem like they are normal,” Dixson said.

Cedarville students are required to annually review the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s concussion protocol.

Additionally, athletic training students take an upper body injury management class, which details how to recognize and manage concussions and other brain and spinal cord injuries. A junior-and-senior-level class further explores how concussions affect athletes.

Laura Jani is a junior nursing major and a reporter for Cedars. She enjoys a freshly brewed cup of coffee, learning the Spanish language and traveling to new destinations.

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