Area schools requiring concussion tests for student athletes

WASHINGTON – Student athletes in two local counties will all take baseline concussion tests before the start of their season.

The measure is just one step local schools are taking to prevent and diminish the effects of concussions among student athletes as more and more research demonstrates the severe and lasting toll concussions can have on young brains.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, new research indicates that the effects of a concussion can last for weeks or as long as a year and classroom work could worsen those effects.

Both Montgomery and Prince William county public schools will require student athletes to undergo the baseline testing this school year.

“If an athlete sustains a head injury, they will take that test again,” says Dana Tofig, spokesman for Montgomery County Schools.

During the past few years, some schools ordered the baseline tests but this is the first year the testing will be required district-wide, Tofig says.

In addition to the testing, Prince William County Schools works with George Mason University to study concussion rates and among student athletes with the help of a grant.

“We are tracking concussion training, we’re tracing concussion instances as well as time of recovery,” says Fred Milbert, the supervisor of health, physical education, drivers education, athletics and JROTC for Prince William County Schools.

“The research that I’ve been able to participate in with George Mason University has shown that students sometimes aggravate or maybe even intensify symptoms when they are exposed to videos or to pressured reading or the anxiety of a test or other types of things that may occur in the classroom,” Milbert says.

The district trains its teachers on strategies to help students who have suffered a concussion and who are struggling in the classroom, he says.

“I’d like to think we’re pretty aggressive,” Milbert says. “We hope to extend it into community recreation sports at some point in the next year or so. So that the whole community is talking from the same page and it’s talking about the same ways to help care for our students and help to improve the recovery of concussed athletes.”

The research is evolving quickly and school officials are keeping a close eye on new developments, Tofig says.

“We’ll continue to do what we can to make sure we have a robust athletics program in our schools but most importantly that our students are participating safely and that they are able to learn to the highest level. That is our biggest concern,” he says. “We want to make sure our students are learning and are thriving. And that includes making sure they are safe on the athletic field.”

Learn more about concussions and policies for high school athletes in Maryland here and for athletes in Virginia here.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow @kingWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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