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Congress turns attention to high school concussions

ASEP Executive Director, James Schmutz
ASEP Executive Director, James Schmutz

ASEP director testifies on need to systematically educate coaches

Too many high school athletes sustain concussions and return to play before recommended—and coaches, the key figures in determining athletes’ conditions and influencing their return to action are seldom prepared to handle this responsibility. Additionally, few school athletic departments implement a concussion prevention and management program.

That is the message Jim Schmutz, executive director of the American Sport Education Program (ASEP) division of Human Kinetics, shared with the House Committee on Education and Labor Thursday, May 20th. Schmutz was invited to speak about concussion prevention training efforts currently underway and the resources available to coaches to help them employ effective concussion prevention and management measures.

“No evidence would suggest that coaches, in general, are derelict in their duty to provide for the safety of their athletes,” underscores Schmutz. “What is clear is that, in the case of what are often less apparent and cumulative injuries like concussion, the uninformed and untrained coach is overmatched by the role he or she is expected to play.”

Schmutz cited a 2007 study of New England high school head football coaches which found that most coaches rely on coaching associations, conferences and media for information about concussions but that the most effective resources come from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) concussion kit.

“Systematic education and not simply a troubleshooting toolkit is critical for the ability of coaches to handle all of the complex issues associated with concussion prevention, identification and decision making,” says Schmutz. “We would underscore the importance of professionalizing the role of high school coaches if we are going to demand more accountability and place more responsibilities on them, including concussion management.”

Schmutz also alluded to updates ASEP is currently making to its Sport First Aid course, to include more comprehensive current information on concussion management, with the intention of providing access to the full range of CDC resources. “By incorporating more concussion management education into the Sport First Aid course, coaches in states like California, where they are required to be first aid certified, will benefit without added expense.”

Click here to see the full written testimony Schmutz submitted to Congress.

Click here to view the archived Webcast of the hearing.

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