Milaca AD explains concussion policies

Milaca Public Schools Activities Director Jerry Westphal hosted a meeting with parents last week to explain the Minnesota High School League’s policies on concussions.

That has led youth sports organizations to take a closer look at their own policies regarding head injuries and other traumatic hits sustained on high school sports fields and courts. The Minnesota State High School League has lead the nation in implementing proactive policies for school athletics.

Milaca Public Schools Activities Director Jerry Westphal has begun hosting public meetings with parents to explain and discuss these policies, the latest of which took place last Thursday evening.

“We’re trying to get everyone on the same page,” Westphal said.

He explained the problem of historically treating head injuries as nothing to worry about stems from “old school coaches” or parents who say, “He just got his bell rung, he’ll be OK,” Westphal said.

They may not realize the potential danger in allowing injured athletes to return to play too soon after such event, he added. Now, every coach employed by the school must complete concussion management training. That doesn’t mean they can diagnose a student with a concussion, but they will know the signs and make the call to have the athlete checked out by the school’s physical therapist Barb Rein.

Parents, who often spend hundreds of dollars so their child can participate, may also pressure coaches to allow their son or daughter to play as well, Westphal said. And, as a father himself, he said he could understand the urge, but it’s important to make sure that returning to play won’t lead to more problems down the road.

“If the trainer says they don’t play, they don’t play,” Westphal said.

Once a concussion has been diagnosed, clearance to return to play must be submitted in writing to the activities office, and that clearance cannot be made the same day of the injury, according to the High School League’s policy.

“It can take 36 hours or more for the symptoms to fully develop,” Rein said. “That’s why we want to be cautious and not let them play that same day.”

“The High School League is very firm about this,” Westphal added.

For the full story, see the Thursday, March 14 print edition of the Times.