How High Schools Handle Concussed Football Players

ConcussionsFBall(Lyndon): In a study released this past July, researchers at Boston University found that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a “progressive, degenerative brain disease,” may be more common among football players than previously thought. According to Dr. Amanda VanStraten, neurologist at NVRH, there are some standardized assesments and clinical symptoms that people use to diagnose concussion, but the process involving brain injury from repeated head injuries has been known for a long time, and in other sports. "[Legendary boxer] Muhammed Ali is a well known case (the old term is dementia pugilistica)," said Dr VanStraten. The study found CTE in 99 percent brains obtained from NFL players (with the majority being deceased). The study also found the disease in 21 percent of high school players.



            21 percent may seem like a low number, but protocol is in place for all high schools in America to make sure that this number doesn’t go any higher, not just in football. “This is done in all sports,” says Bob Johnson, Associated Executive Director of the Vermont Principal’s Association. Football is one of four contact sports in Vermont (hockey, wrestling and lacrosse are the other three) that are required to have “appropriate medical personnel” at every game. “Vermont is one of only a few states that require all football coaches to be certified in USA Football’s Heads Up Program,” said Johnson. This program focuses on issues in football such as concussions, safe tackling tips, appropriate equipment, sudden cardiac arrest and several other topics.

            On the educational side of the issue, Johnson stated that in addition to providing information on concussions, all schools (by state law) have to have a return to learn and return to play protocols that are given to parents and students. “These protocols outline the steps that need to be completed before a student may return,” Johnson said.

            The VPA does provide conferences that are available to coaches, athletic directors and athletic trainers, in addition to having a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. For more information, visit

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