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GHSA has new rules on concussions
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New rules going into affect this year mean high school football players who suffer concussions or related symptoms will be treated differently.

It’s part of changes toward head injuries among all athletes by the National Federation of High Schools. There’s new language that lays out explicit procedures concerning dealing with the injuries.

There also will be new guidelines by officials, who have the authority to send a player who displays any type of concussion symptoms out of the game.

Last year, the referee had to either suspect or observe the contact that may have caused a concussion. Two medical studies on high school athletics reported that only 3.2 percent of all concussed athletes lost consciousness during the 2009 football season.

An announcement posted Aug. 2 on the Georgia High School Association’s website,, said concussions at all levels of sports have received a great deal of attention in the past few years. Attention has increased even more over the past year, culminating with the NFL, NCAA and National Federation of State High School Associations testifying before the United States Congress about what each organization is doing to protect athletes from concussion.

Because concussions have the potential to result in death, or short- and long-term changes in brain functions, the report said, the GHSA has adopted the new guidelines for the 2010-11 calendar.

Under the new policy officials, coaches and administrators are being asked to make all efforts to ensure that concussed athletes do not continue to participate. Thus, coaches, players, officials, and administrators should also be looking for signs of concussion in all athletes and should immediately remove any suspected concussed athlete from play.

Any athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) will be immediately removed from the contest and will not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health-care professional.

Neither officials, nor coaches, are expected to "diagnose" a concussion, as that is the job of an appropriate health-care professional. Officials are being asked to use their best judgment in observing the signs, symptoms and behaviors, but are no longer being asked to make what could be perceived to be a medical opinion.

The game official is not responsible for the sideline evaluation or management of the athlete after he or she is removed from play. The responsibility of further evaluating and managing the symptomatic athlete falls upon the head coach, appropriate health-care professional, or other individual designated by school administrators.

The official does not need written permission for an athlete to return to play, nor does the official need to verify the credentials of the appropriate health-care professional. Ensuring compliance with the Suggested Management Guidelines is a health and safety issue and should be the responsibility of the head coach and school administration, not the game official.

Any athlete suspected of having a concussion should be evaluated by an appropriate health-care professional that day.

An "appropriate health-care professional" must be determined by each school district with respect to state laws and local preferences. Such individuals should be knowledgeable in the evaluation and management of sports-related concussions and may, depending on controlling law, include MDs, DOs and certified athletic trainers

No athlete should return to play or practice on the same day after a concussion has been diagnosed

Any athlete with a concussion should be medically cleared by an appropriate healthcare professional prior to resuming participation in any practice or competition. The formulation of a gradual return to play protocol should be a part of the medical clearance.

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