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Concussion management discussed at Frontier School Board meeting

A thorough approach to handling concussions suffered by athletes and others within the school district was outlined at Tuesday’s (Aug. 21) Frontier Central School Board meeting.

Rich Gray, who serves as Frontier’s district athletic director, presented the board with a discussion that focused on concussion management, a topic brought forward through state directives and an accompanying Concussion Management Act for 2012-13. As part of the act, Gray said, all school physical education teachers, coaches, nurses, athletic trainers and other related personnel must complete an online concussion management course every two years. It was also stated that all parents and guardians of participating athletes must be provided with concussion information, forms that they must review and sign.

Additionally, concussion management awareness information must be made available for viewers via the district’s website. If it is suspected that a student-athlete has sustained a concussion, or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), then that individual will be removed immediately from athletic activity. Gray stated that no student-athlete can resume athletic activity unless- among several parameters- they are symptom-free of concussion signs for at least 24 hours, as well as cleared for physical return by a physician and the district’s medical director.

Although Frontier does not currently have an individual slotted in the medical director position, Gray recommended that the district appoint Dawn Springer to fill that capacity, a move that the athletic director said would not present any additional cost to Frontier. District Superintendent James Bodziak later stated that it is likely that the board will bring that item for approval to the agenda for the district’s Sept. 4 meeting.

A concussion is defined as an incident occurring when an individual’s brain moves back and forth in a whiplash-like fashion or in a rapid twisting manner inside their skull, as a reaction to a jolt or force that’s transmitted to the head by an impact or blow anywhere on the body. Football players, Gray said, are subjected to the most instances of concussions, while female soccer participants sustain the second-most TBI-related injuries. Of the 18 TBI/concussion occurrences at Frontier in 2011-12, 13 were noted to have happened during an athletic event, while five were recorded as having taken place during physical education, car accidents or other random events.

Gray said preventing serious long-term injury is pertinent in the district’s protection of its students and athletes.

“The second (instance of concussion) is the (most) dangerous one, following what can often be an unrecognized or unnoticed (first concussion),” said Gray. “In the (significant) past, when you got your bell rung, you’d (often) get back in the game. That was the risk.”

The athletic director stated that Frontier’s football players have been provided with four-star helmets, protective items that are stated to be the second-most safe as part of overall designations. Although five-star helmets are notably more expensive, Gray said, the possibility of obtaining such devices has been explored within Frontier.

Also, the athletic director said, the idea of girls soccer players wearing foam helmets as a protective measure against concussions- an item stated as having once been implemented at the modified level- has a chance to gain steam in the district.

It was stated that athletes who are returning to action following a concussion – or what is even believed to be a TBI – must complete noted protocol related to recovery. Cognitive and physical rest, during which any activity is ceased, begins the process. Then, if an individual is symptom free for 24 hours, a six-day period of gradual “return” takes place, starting with a day of low-impact, non-strenuous, light aerobic activity.

A concussed student-athlete must also be cleared for return by their physician, via proof by note. They must also be evaluated by the district’s medical director, who notifies Frontier’s Concussion Management Team, a committee that enforces the “Return to Play” protocol for the individual.

Initial medical attention after an incident of concussion is given by an athletic trainer, and parents of the student-athlete are notified immediately. The school nurse is also immediately given notice, and an accident report is generated.

Gray said Frontier has maintained a Concussion Management Team since 2009, with the organization being comprised of nurses, an athletic trainer, the athletic director and physical trainer, among others.

In other meeting action, district officials continued discussions related to a student representative serving on the board of education for 2012-13, a measure approved in May by voters as a proposition item accompanying the annual budget vote. Officials seemed to reach an impasse at the degree of defining the exact wording of the student member’s title, as Board Member Thomas Best Jr. suggested that placing a “liaison” role on the student’s duties is better than having the individual literally sit on the board as an ex-officio, non-voting member.

However, fellow Board Member Larry Albert stated that voters had already spoken in terms of conveying their belief that the student member can provide a productive duty on the board, adding that comparable, studied districts such as West Seneca and North Tonawanda have succeeded while implementing similar policies.

“If (having an ex-officio, non-voting student member on the school board) works for them, it can work for us,” said Albert.

Fellow Board Member Pat Boyle also suggested that the district move forward with following a recommendation made through Bodziak’s research, information that dictates that the student government president can serve as the ex-officio member on the board. It was further stated that Boyle and Board President Janet Plarr, among others, would work further in building the specific policy that defines the student member’s exact duties and other parameters. Bodziak stated that regardless of the aforementioned individual’s title, that person will provide a noted service to the district.

“The student will provide us with the pulse of the high school and what’s going on there,” said Bodziak. “You can call (the student’s title) whatever you want, but their role is communication.”

Also Tuesday, the board voted to approve a resolution that increases district meal prices for students by 20 cents in 2012-13, a measure approved by an 8-1 margin. Board Member Nancy Wood cast the dissenting “No” vote. Breakfast prices for grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 will be slated at $1.25, while lunch prices will be $2.25 in grades 6-8 and 9-12 and $2 for grades K-5.

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