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:: Player safety is a main priority

Scituate Cohasset Youth Football battles concussions
Youth league taking proactive approach

There was quite a bit of interest from other sports, including Scituate-Cohasset Youth Football and Cheerleading, which has been working on a program of its own for more than a year.

The SciCoh’s program is multi-faceted, based around a combination of education, coaching and new gear phased in over the next few seasons.

SciCoh board president Chris Comeau got things moving in 2010, according to board member Ken Kelly, who took a few minutes to talk about some of the work that has been done.

“Chris decided in 2010 decided to start to look at policies and equipment and ways to ensure athletes are safe.”

One of the first things the league did was communicate with Dr. Janet Kent, who runs the Sports Concussion Clinic at South Shore Hospital, one of the top places for ImPact baseline testing that is recommended.

They also consulted Jeannine Donato, RN - A Head of the Game, and others have provided great feedback on how progressive our program has been on the issue of concussions in youth sports.

They also are working with Dr. David Morin of Scituate Pediatrics.

The 2011 season will see changes for coaches and players.

It all starts with a three-pronged attack that aims to change perceptions of concussions.

“There has been a stigma on head injuries,” Kelly said. “We want to destigmatize it. It used to be kids were taught to play through pain. Now, if you get your bell rung, we want kids to tell us about it and create a safe place for them to talk about it.”
That starts with education.

From the beginning of practice, the SciCoh  board will introduce their Concussion Education Program and explain resources available, including recommended baseline testing, the roles of players, cheerleaders, families and physicians in the prevention and recognition and response to concussions.

The two biggest parts of prevention include coaching and equipment.

With coaching, it comes down to technique.

“We teach how to lead with the shoulder on tackles and keep the head up,” Kelly said. “We talk about the risks of improper technique like going into a tackle with the head down. We’re fortunate to have a lot of assistant coaches and we videotape all our games. We are able to isolate tackling issues on the practice field. The kids get the message pretty good.”

Coaches, board members and assistant coaches will be required to follow the Heads Up Concussion in Youth Sports training, which teaches all aspects of the injury including recognition and response, and pass a test on all aspects of concussions.

The other big development is new helmets.

SciCoh will be phasing in new Xenith helmets, which have been designed with new technology to help prevent concussions.
The helmets have adaptive head production that works by adapting to the energy and direction of hits and to reduce sudden impact of the head during impacts, helping over a long term as well.

“We did research as a board and based on discussions with Dr. Kent, we felt it was technology worth exploring,” Kelly said. “We knew this wsn’t something we could just throw money at. We need to find a way to mitigate the problem.”

Kelly said Dr. Kent’s own children use the Xenith helmets, and according to information available on the helmets, several colleges are already using them. NFL teams have also requested them for mini camps.

That doesn’t mean that the current Riddell helmets aren’t safe.

“The Riddell helmets are certified and safe,” Kelly said. “We have no safety issues with the current helmets.”
Kelly said Duxbury has been using Xenith helmets with good results.

Duxbury had a seminar on concussions not too long ago.

When concussions do happen, the league wants to be in touch with families, schools and physicians to know when a player is safe for return.

“We will talk to school nurses,” Kelly said. “We’ll communicate with them at the high school and middle school levels and if someone isn’t ready to go back to class, they’re not ready to play.”

Kelly made it clear that the league wasn’t just reacting to what others have been doing.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of progress. I think we’re ahead of most everybody when it comes to this issue. Our goal with the formal program is to ensure that all of our athletes are safe.”

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