Marin Grand Jury acts to prevent concussions in school athletics

Kevin Gao

The Marin County Civil Grand Jury recently recommended that local schools create a protocol to help deter student athletes from the long-term health risks of repeated head injuries.

Redwood lacrosse practice
Redwood lacrosse practice

The grand jury responded to the lack of protocol when dealing with concussions among student athletes by creating five different requirements that every school should satisfy.

The official grand jury report stated that 5-10 percent of athletes will experience a concussion during an average sports season, with 47 percent of athletes having no immediate apparent symptoms after a concussive blow.

The five steps included the required payment for baseline neurocognitive testing of all high school athletes, the hiring of certified athletic trainers, mandatory concussion education for student athletes, and the adoption of protocols for reporting head injuries and for determining how long injured players should wait before returning to school and athletic activities. The list also required collecting head injury data and compiling the data in a centralized database.

Both the Redwood athletic director and trainer believe these grand jury standards are an acceptable response to the prevalence of student concussions.

Athletic director Jessica Peisch said that an accessible athletic trainer is an invaluable resource and that Redwood is very fortunate to have Americ Alvarado.

“They [athletic trainers] help inform the parents of their child’s injuries and are able to provide proper care. In my mind, it is a great service that we have. Not every school in the county has an athletic trainer, and it’s wonderful that we are able to provide it,” Peisch said.

Alvarado said that it is good for schools in Marin to have a universal standard which they can all strive towards.

“I like the guidelines and what is recommended, so schools that want to provide something for their students have these published and researched steps to use,” Alvarado said.

Redwood currently satisfies all of the guidelines, but many other Marin schools do not, according to Alvarado.

“Some schools do not, due to the fact of funding or other resources, and are not able to offer an athletic trainer or a facilitator for the mandatory testing recommended,” Alvarado said.

Although Alvarado and Peisch believe that the list is an appropriate standard that all schools should hold themselves to, they also question whether all schools in Marin can afford it.

“I think that it’s a standard we should hold ourselves accountable to, because it gives more safety to the students, but at the same time some other schools don’t have the available resources to provide those services,” Alvarado said.

Peisch said that some local schools may not be able to afford the expense of a certified athletic trainer.

“I feel that the schools in the county are now starting to offer the trainers and education. It has been a long time coming, because of finances,” Peisch said. “It’s another paid position, so maybe some schools needed time to figure out how to finance a trainer.”

Although Alvarado believes the standards to be fair, he feels that a major emphasis on academic education exists within a school’s budget, which might be why schools have not been able to offer these services.

“It might be harder with schools getting bigger and bigger. Their emphasis is more on academic support and education, which is totally understandable,” Alvarado said. “They want to have more teachers and more classrooms, and things like athletics are not as high on the priority list.”

As more and more schools adopt these new guidelines, Alvarado said that he hopes that they will help refine the way athletic departments deal with injuries.

“Sports are such a wonderful part of life, and injuries are part of it, but if you can show everyone the way to treat and take care of these injuries, it’s not going to ruin the rest of your life. You just have to know how to manage and treat it,” Alvarado said.