Central Illinois Sports Report with Elise Menaker: Possible concussion-related changes for coaches

Central Illinois Sports Report with Elise Menaker: Possible concussion-related changes for coaches

Indiana and California, two states that already require concussion awareness training for high school and youth football coaches.  Could Illinois soon follow in their footsteps?  Legislation has already passed the House and Senate and is expected to get Governor Quinn's signature soon.  So in this week's Central Illinois Sports Report with Elise Menaker, she finds out the impact this could have on players and coaches.

No matter the reward, it's the impact you hate to hear.  Contact can't be prevented in sports but a law will likely aim to help athletic staff in Illinois recognize signs of a concussion.  The bill, headed to the Governor's desk, requires concussion training for high school coaches.

“A lot of times players play through an injury, orthopedic injuries that might be okay in some instances but when we're dealing with the brain, playing through a concussion is not advisable and the more people that know it, and understand it, can remove players when it becomes a problem,” explained Athletic Trainer Dustin Fink.

This measure would require the Illinois High School Association to put together a training program on the dangers of head injuries.  Athletic staff would take a course every two years.

“The more people that are aware of concussions is going to help identify the issue,” Fink explained.  “The biggest problems with concussions is not actually the injury itself, it's just the identification and management of the injury.”

Menaker spoke to the IHSA about the training program and it said:

“We're working with experts with our sports medicine advisory committee and from around the state to make sure we're ready to go when it's passed."

The IHSA said the test would be taken and monitored through the private part of the IHSA website.

Each school and coach has their own private page that would track if they've completed all necessary items eligible to coach.  Head football coach at Mt. Zion High School Mike Popovich understands concussion risks and supports the legislation but knows that it also comes with challenges.

“I think sometimes you won't be able to notice it or recognize it right away,” Popovich said.  “I mean it's not that we're not worried about the safety of our players, but at the same time, you're locked into the game, you have a trainer.  That's why it's very, very important to have a trainer in your program.”

But experts said as long as coaches are trained to recognize the signs of a concussion, having that extra set of eyes on the field can help.

“I do think that this will give me more opportunity to get on top of a concussion earlier because with we have more awareness, if we have athletes get recognized for having these potential symptoms, they can get in, get treated,” Dr. Scott Bilyeu said.

Your head or even body doesn't necessarily have to be hit hard to get a concussion but smaller, repetitive impacts can cause damage to the brain as well.  Those subconcussive hits overtime can create the same issue.

“There's not necessarily a tear in the anatomy of the brain, there doesn't necessarily have to be a skull fracture, in fact, you don't have to even have loss of consciousness for a concussion to happen,” Dr. Bilyeu explained.

In fact a majority of concussions happen without loss of consciousness.  Symptoms could include headaches, confusion, dizziness and concentration impairment.

The remedy: rest.

“There's no magic to this,” Dr. Bilyeu said.  “There's no pill that we can prescribe that's magically going to make their concussion better.  It's basically just allowing the brain to rest.”

And the earlier they can do that, improves their chances of having a strong recovery.

The IHSA has already put in place heat and climitization limits.  In terms of full contact regulations, 13 other states get just two contact days during the week plus a game in the summer.  Currently Illinois has no such restriction.

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