Johnson County youth football club to introduce concussion management plan, free baseline testing
Free Sports Injury Prevention Clinic Next Month
The University of Kansas Hospital will conduct a free sports safety and injury prevention clinic June 28.
The clinic will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the KU Med West community room at 7405 Renner Road.
The registration deadline is June 24, but the hospital recommends registering as early as possible to ensure a spot at the limited-seating event.
Jennie Vargas, an injury prevention and trauma education specialist from the hospital, will be guest speaker for the clinic.
Attendees will receive an injury prevention packet and free pizza.
According to the hospital, more than 38 million children participate in sports each year, of which 3.5 million under 15 are treated for sports-related injuries. Brain injury is the leading cause of sports-related death to children.
One of the state’s largest youth football and cheerleading clubs is introducing a concussion management program that will include voluntary baseline testing for participants and mandatory preseason seminars for coaches.
The Football and Cheerleading Club of Johnson County will partner with the Overland Park Regional Medical Center — the site of the first concussion management program in Kansas — to offer the program.
Tackle football participants in grades 5 through 8 and cheerleaders in grades 6 through 8 can take baseline concussion tests at no cost from the ImPACT Testing Program — the same program used to compare cognitive functions for professional and collegiate football players.
Overland Park Regional will also provide medical first-aid kits to football teams and cheer squads each year.
Rich Hunter, FCCJC executive director, said coaches would be required to attend a preseason concussion management seminar as part of the program’s orientation clinic. Seminars will be conducted July 14, July 24 and Aug. 7.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly half a million emergency department visits for traumatic brain injuries are made annually by children under 14 years old.
Increased awareness about the threat of head injuries in contact sports led to some states enacting legislation regarding the management of such injuries. Earlier this year, the Kansas House and Senate passed a bill requiring high school student athletes to sign a concussion or head injury release form before participating and called for written clearance from a health care provider before returning to play after a head injury.
Hunter said between 200 and 240 students in grades 5 through 8 participate in about a dozen FCCJC teams in the Shawnee Mission North and Shawnee Mission Northwest area.
Hunter said the goal of the preseason seminars would be to educate youth football coaches on how to identify symptoms of a concussion and how to handle the injury during practice. He said teams practiced three times a week for several hours at a time without the medical personnel that were on hand for organized games.
The club’s board of directors was not ready to make the baseline tests mandatory, Hunter said, adding that the tests were one of several means used to determine the severity of head injuries.
Matt Brooks, Overland Park Regional’s director of community outreach development, said that while he’s wary of the term mandatory, he’d support ImPACT testing becoming as requisite as a sports physical.
Still, he said, those who forgo the testing can still use it later. Information on age, grade level and even whether a child is an above- or below-average student can be entered into the program and be compared with post-concussion results.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s very close,” Brooks said.
The ImPACT testing program is a computer-based test that takes about a half hour to complete. Participants are evaluated on verbal and visual memory, speed and reaction time.
Results from tests taken before the season are then compared with those taken following a concussion to help determine whether an athlete is fit to return to competition.
Brooks, who coached high school and indoor football in Topeka, said the medical center’s concussion management program could mean the difference between an athlete sitting out when he might otherwise have returned prematurely.
Second-impact syndrome is the program’s target, Brooks said. When a concussion occurs, the risk of a second concussion is elevated. That second concussion can then produce brain-bleeding and even death.
Brooks said Overland Park Regional was covering the cost of the program, making the ImPACT testing free for participants.
“If we can save one kid from a second impact, we’ve reached our goal,” Brooks said.