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Astorino Reveals Concussion Task Force’s 10 “Best Practices” For Safer Youth Sports

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Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino revealed a 10 “Best Practices” to tackle the grey areas in the process of identifying and treating concussions, particularly in high school and youth athletes. The Westchester Concussion Task Force that Astorino created in July, consisting of local doctors, educators, coaches and trainers, all with experience in concussions, some nationally recognized, joined him at the announcement today.

The 10 Best Practices, published in a booklet called “Safer Sports: A Collaborative Response for Westchester to Sports-Related Concussions”, has been endorsed by the Brain Injury Association of America and New York State.

“Our goal is not to scare parents; suggest we have all the answers, or to insert county government into an area where the primary responsibility rests with parents and school officials,” said Astorino in a statement. “Our goal is simply to play a helpful role.”

Astorino started the Safer Sports Initiative after Dr. Mark Herceg, the county’s Mental Health Commissioner, explained to him that there were some gaps in concussion protocols among youth sports and suggested a concussion task force. It is the latest initiative in Astorino’s Safer Communities campaign, which launched in January 2013.

“We think concussion treatment will be much improved by improving the coordination, collaboration and communication on the part of everyone involved in treating an injury’” said Herceg in a statement. “Schools and providers need to work together and that’s what we are promoting.”

Astorino stated that the concussion task force will continue beyond the 10 Best Practices to investigate frequency, recovery times, and gender differences in concussions at the high school and youth sports levels. 

The 10 Best Practices recommended by the Safer Communities initiative are:

1. Start With Awareness
Formally educate parents, students, athletes, coaches, appropriate school personnel, and youth sports programs about concussions and school protocols before participating in sports.

2. Build A Team
Encourage schools and youth sports organizations to have a designated concussion management team (CMT) that brings together experts trained in concussions. The team should meet or communicates regularly. At minimum, the CMT should include, but not be limited to, an athletic trainer, physician, nurse, athletic director, and school/neuropsychologist.

3. Report What You Know
Ensure that all concussions are reported along with any lasting symptoms from the field or playground, to parent, to ER, to health professional, to the classroom. Concussions do not just happen in a game; they can happen in gym class or at recess.

4. Assess Situation Immediately
Utilize athletic trainers and conduct sideline assessments that can be compared to baseline behavior, in order to capture concussions in real time as they occur.

5. Don’t “One-Stop” Shop For Answers
Districts and youth programs should provide referrals to specialists (neurologists, physical therapists, neuro-ophthalmologists, neuropsychologists), as needed, to treat specific symptoms. One provider should not be the “one-stop shop” for all symptoms.

6. Understand The Big Picture
Ensure everyone involved understands the impact a concussion can have on behavioral, academic, emotional, and physical maturation of young children.

7. Stay Current
Health care providers evaluating children and adolescents must maintain a current level of understanding of the diagnosis, treatment, and management of sports-related concussions

8. Encourage Training
Ensure that properly trained professionals, such as athletic trainers, are available to conduct sideline tests and that the results are reviewed and interpreted by a neuropsychologist or school psychologist.

9. Beware Of Simple Answers
School, youth programs, parents, and students need to be aware that concussions are a clinical diagnosis, and that it takes more than a single or brief computerized test to understand the extent of the injury.

10. Focus On Return-To-Learn
As important as return to play is for a child, it is more important that schools have a return to learn plan (RTL) to address issues children face as they return to the classroom after an injury. Returning to the classroom does not always parallel returning to play.

For the full press release, and 10 Best practices, go to westchestergov.com.

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