‘Heads Up’ on student athlete concussions


Gov. Sean Parnell and the Alaska Legislature recognize the dangers posed by concussions in school sports and have taken measures to protect Alaska's student athletes with the passage and signing of HB 15 and SB 22. This legislation provides the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District an opportunity to enhance its already proactive emphasis on student safety.

School districts are required to ensure that all coaches are trained in concussion awareness, develop and publish guidelines for response to suspected or actual concussions, and educate parents and athletes on concussion awareness.

KPBSD has taken steps over the summer to put new safeguard and education measures in place, so that students participating in sports that begin before school starts in the fall are still protected.  

As of Aug. 1, 2011: 

  • All coaches, whether they are paid or volunteer, who work with KPBSD high school athletes must take an online training course, "Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports," provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Federation of State High School Associations. The course is free, easy to access and provides valuable information about recognizing the warning signs of concussions, responding to such injuries and working to prevent them. Coaches must print a certificate of completion and submit it to Human Resources. The course is available at http://www.nfhslearn.com/electiveDetail.aspx?courseID=15000
  • Parents/guardians and athletes will attend an initial meeting for each sport and will be given a "Heads Up" fact sheet from the CDC with information about concussions, and must sign a form indicating they have received the information. Meeting attendance and signature for receiving the "Heads Up" form are required for student participation in athletics.  
  • As practices and games begin, KPBSD will adhere to CDC recommended guidelines. If a concussion is suspected: 
    • Remove the athlete from play.  
    • Inform parents/guardians and have the athlete evaluated by a health care professional. 
    • Keep the athlete out of play the day of the injury. Athletes will not be allowed to return to play until cleared to do so by a health care professional. 
  • These requirements apply to ALL SPORTS — not just football and hockey. Volleyball, cross-country running, wrestling, etc. are included. 

These guidelines may result in athletes missing play more so than in the past. This may be frustrating to those enthusiastic to get back in the game. However, research shows that continued activity after a concussion is sustained can result in effects that may not be apparent until long after the injury. Ceasing activity and medical evaluation is crucial to treatment of concussions and prevention of serious aftereffects.

KPBSD places paramount emphasis on student health and safety and has already taken steps to address growing concern over concussions in student athletics. The District began spending $75,000 of General Fund money in fiscal year 2010 for safety equipment for athletics, including a football helmet replacement fund. Incorporating the requirements of HB 15 and SB 22 is just another way to tackle this problem.