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Connecticut Board of Education Approves New Concussion Guidelines

Come July 1, student-athletes in Connecticut will be subject to an updated set of concussion guidelines approved by the state board of education on Wednesday.

Last spring, the state legislature approved a law that aimed to build upon the state's original youth-concussion law, passed back in 2010. The original law required annual concussion training for coaches, the removal from play of any student-athlete suspected of a concussion, and written clearance from a health-care professional before any student-athlete with a concussion can return to play. It did not, however, require any sort of parental education initiative, nor did it require the signature of a parent or guardian on a concussion information form before student-athletes are allowed to participate in school sports.

The new law, which Gov. Dannel Malloy signed last May, required each local and regional board of education to prevent a student-athlete from participating in any intramural or interscholastic athletic activity unless the student-athlete and a parent or guardian underwent some form of concussion training. A parent or guardian also must sign an informed consent form before his or her student-athlete is allowed to participate in sports.

The law required the state board of education to develop a concussion education plan by Jan. 1, 2015, and either develop or approve an informed consent form by July 1, 2015. And thus, on Wednesday, the state board unanimously approved the new set of guidelines, which require student-athletes to either read written materials, watch online training or videos, or attend in-person training sessions on concussions before participating in interscholastic athletes, as the law required.

Allan Taylor, chairman of the state board, told the Hartford Courant that he'd like to continue working on the guidelines, particularly regarding the academic side of concussion recovery.

"Part of the recovery has to do with reducing cognitive load and that is physically important," Taylor said. "It's mentioned in here, but I didn't get the sense that there was really much linkage to the academic side of the school or the school system.

"It's not just an issue for the athletic trainer and the coaching staff and the physical education teachers. It's an issue for the entire school and the report says that but a lot of the focus ... was really athletic-focused."

The state developed these concussion guidelines in consultation with the state health department, the Connecticut Athletic Trainers Association, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, and the Connecticut State Medical Society, according to the Connecticut Post. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference shared the informed consent form on its website, which includes information about signs and symptoms of a concussion, return-to-play guidelines, and other types of head injuries beyond concussions. It also shared the concussion task force's video on YouTube.

Diana Coyne, a parent whose son suffered six concussions playing football, told the Post that the new protocol "moves Connecticut from having one of the worst concussion laws in the nation to, now, middle of the pack, maybe.

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