With football season drawing nearer, Jim Gottwald, Bartow County executive director of secondary curriculum and student services, said the purpose of the Bartow school system’s policy is to ensure the safety of all athletes.
“For way too long, we have done the best we could do in identifying athletes who demonstrate symptoms of concussion, and honestly some have returned to play too early,” Gottwald said in an email. “The policy is designed to provide the necessary medical determination of a possible concussion and a treatment plan as well as a time frame for returning to play.”
Georgia’s Return to Play Act of 2013 was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal on April 23 at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, affecting young athletes in all schools and public recreational leagues statewide.
The new law, effective Jan. 1, will require all public and private schools and public recreational leagues to provide concussion information to parents or legal guardians. It also requires public and private school athletes to be removed from play if they exhibit symptoms of a concussion. A healthcare provider then must give clearance before the athlete can return.
However, Gottwald said Bartow County has been “ahead of the curve with regards to concussion identification and treatment.”
One way he said his schools have been keeping an eye on concussions over the last few years is through a computer-based sports concussion evaluation called ImPACT, which is administered by the school’s athletic trainers.
“The ImPACT Test provides the schools and trainers with information regarding previous concussions. Having this information allows our schools to better treat and determine what the appropriate time is to return to play,” said Gottwald.
With each of the schools being individually responsible for their specific changes in accordance with the rules, items such as new helmets and helmet covers for the old helmets have been purchased.
Adairsville head football coach Eric Bishop said, “We have two returning players that suffered concussions and we have already ordered their new preventive helmet covers. The new helmets do have air-filled jawbone pads that no previous helmets have had.”
While the new law ensures care is taken to help prevent concussions, it also was approved to make sure parents are provided with information on the risks and management associated with concussions.
“Unfortunately there is no way to eliminate concussions,” Gottwald said. “When you have athletes who are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before, it is impossible to eliminate head injuries.”
“Over the years rule changes have been made restricting the use of the head, and helmet manufacturers continually research ways to make safer helmets, but in my opinion, concussions will never be 100 percent eliminated from athletics. We have outstanding coaching staffs in Bartow County and we are very proud of the work they do with our young people.”