Ahead of the Sports Safety Curve

“National attention on concussions has been growing since the mid-2000s. We wanted to get ahead of the curve and become the model for sports safety for the state,” said John Davis, HCPSS coordinator of athletics. “We’re proud of our role in developing and following sports safety best practices.”

HCPSS is the first school system in Maryland and one of the first in the country to offer a state-of-the- art sports concussion management and education program that includes Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT), especially as an eligibility requirement for contact sports. Since 2008, the school system has used ImPACT to help detect and treat concussions in high school athletes through a program developed by Dr. Gerard Gioia, director of the SCORE concussion program at Children’s National Medical Center.

For ImPACT, student athletes participate in pre-concussion baseline testing to assess verbal and visual memory, and processing speed and reaction time. This information is then used as a comparison after an injury to help detect and recover from a concussion. After a concussion, the athlete works with the school’s athletic trainer as part of the “return to play” protocol, individualized to simulate each sport’s skills. HCPSS is one of the few school systems in the state to provide full-time athletic trainers at each high school. Allison Hammond, who has served as the Wilde Lake High School athletic trainer for more than 10 years, sees the ImPACT testing as a “great tool for us to use in our toolbox” to be sure students can go back to athletics or academics safely.

In addition to ImPACT, HCPSS has a robust concussion management education program, which is mandatory for coaches. Wilde Lake senior Daquan Pridget, who plays football and runs track, said he’s now more educated about concussion symptoms, so he’d know to talk to his coach if he experienced any of them after an injury.

Mike Harrison has coached football at his alma mater, Wilde Lake, since 1984 and helped pilot ImPACT. Harrison views Hammond as his “partner in sports safety” as he focuses on instructing his players about safe tackling techniques. He said, “We want to be good ambassadors of the sport of football for our students, so student athletes can go on to be productive members of society.”

Chronicling the HCPSS Concussion Program

Learn more about HCPSS’ sports safety program by watching WBAL‐TV’s coverage at: http://hcpssne.ws/2ddg7sc.