Student athletes suspected of having a concussion must be cleared by a doctor before they can get back in the game or return to practice, under rules approved this morning by the state Public Health Commission.
The rules apply to all public middle and high school teams and all members of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. Because the legislature passed an emergency law in January requiring the Department of Public Health to draft the rules, the new policy takes effect immediately. It also calls for more training for coaches and athletic directors and for students to disclose their history of head injuries at the start of a season.
Forms for clearing a student who has had a head injury and for reporting injuries to the state will be posted on the department's website by August 1.
Concern about the long-term impact of concussions in student athletes has been growing in recent years. Last fall, Boston University researchers found evidence of a concussion-related disease in the brain of a beloved University of Pennsylvania football player who had killed himself. The disease has also been found in the brains of professional players, but the case of Owen Thomas raised alarm because he was just 21 years old.
Reporter David Abel wrote in this morning's Globe that about 200,000 Massachusetts high school students participate in extracurricular sports each year. In a survey conducted by the state Department of Public Health, 18 percent of students said they have experienced a head injury in the previous year that was serious enough to cause unconsciousness, memory problems, blurry vision, headaches, or nausea.
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