With concussion protocols looming ever larger in collegiate and professional sports, efforts are underway to update eight-year-old head injury guidelines at Foxboro High School.
School committee members last week reviewed the first draft of a revised policy outlining the prevention and management of head injuries and concussions. If ultimately approved, the proposed framework will supersede an existing policy in the Foxboro High School student handbook.
School board member Richard Pearson noted that Superintendent Amy Berdos and Athletic Director Joseph Cusack were both instrumental in updating the school’s existing guidelines.
“The concussion management policies really have a sweeping impact across so many parts of our schools,” Pearson said.
Broader and more specific than its predecessor, the new text pointedly extends all policy requirements to marching band activities, as well as student athletics. It also spells out detailed protocols, expectations and instruction to protect student health and safety.
According to board member Brent Reuter, who collaborated with Pearson on the draft policy, these procedures will be reviewed every two years by a team comprised of an administrator, the school nurse, a physician, the athletic director, a certified athletic trainer, a guidance counselor, teacher and the marching band director.
In the event of a suspected concussion or head injury, the proposed policy mandates:
- That coaches notify a student’s parents in person or by phone “immediately following” a suspected head injury.
- That parents receive formal written notification of the incident by the end of the next business day.
- That coaches notify the athletic director and school nurse, also by the end of the next business day.
The policy also spells out mandatory annual training for all affected parties, not only coaches and school officials, but parents and student/athletes or marching band members, as well as volunteers.
“If you are participating in these activities in any way — if you’re a coach, the marching band director, you have a kid doing it or you are a kid doing it — you have to do the training,” committee Chairwoman Tina Belanger said.
The training requirement can be met by taking an online “Concussion in Sports” course created by the National Federation of State High School Associations, by attending the annual athletic night event at Foxboro High School or by reviewing a fact sheet on the topic.
Students and their parents also will be required to verify that they have completed the training by submitting a signed form to the athletic director or marching band director.
In addition, students will continue to receive baseline testing (already a requirement) prior to participating in covered activities, and post-injury testing when appropriate.
More specifically, students suspected of having sustained a concussion or head injury may not return until medically cleared by a physician. Those actually diagnosed with a concussion must present school officials with a written, graduated “re-entry plan” developed by medical and administrative staff, parents and the student’s primary care provider in order to return to both academic and athletic activities.
Reuter stressed that under the proposed policy, students must be “completely symptom-free and medically cleared” before resuming activities, with the school’s physician serving as final authority in all such decisions.
Committee members agreed to defer the policy draft to a second reading at a future date.
Berdos said the school’s health-care partner, Brigham & Women’s Health Care Center at Patriot Place, also plans to weigh in on the policy draft before a final vote is taken.