Updated 09/23/2011 11:40 PM
New Law Designed to Protect Student Head Injuries
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Starting next year, the concussion management awareness act will usher in a new set of guidelines for high school student-athletes who suffer a concussion. These statewide standards are designed to reduce the risk of serious brain injury in the short and long-term.
Medical experts hope the new law protects high school athletes from themselves.
Football on any level is a contact sport. He may not be the biggest player on the field, but Owen Peters is fearless.
"He lets them know that size doesn't matter," said Karen Knapp, Owen's mom.
It's what makes him a good player. It also puts Owen and others like him at risk.
"A lot of the boys are going to want to do that. They want to play and they don't care about the injury," said Knapp.
Last year, Owen suffered a concussion in practice. He tried to talk his way back on the field.
"He's like, 'I can beat the test. I can play.' And I'm like, you can't go back until the doctor says so," said Knapp.
Owen was kept on the sidelines until he was symptom free for 24 hours. It's a move doctors say helped him avoid something more serious.
"Because getting hit during that period of recovery, that's the problem for permanent brain damage," said Dr. Jeff Bazarian.
Dr. Bazarian specializes in treating concussions at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He says a new state law that mandates a specific treatment of a concussion is long overdue.
"We don't want our student athletes to have an undiagnosed condition, not to get the right treatments, go back to play too early, have another hit. That's what we're trying to prevent," said Dr. Bazarian.
Years of research has shown professional athletes who suffer multiple concussions are more likely to be diagnosed with conditions like dementia at an early age. Another more immediate concern is second impact syndrome.
"That's somebody who gets a hit, then another hit that results in death. It doesn't happen very often, but it's traumatic and it's entirely preventable," said Dr. Bazarian.
Currently trainers, or school nurses, can clear a player to return to practice. Starting next year, that clearance can only come from a licensed physician.
"So, everybody follows the same protocols. We have something we can put on website and hand out to parents," said Jason Wentworth, athletic trainer at Brockport High School.
While Owen hasn't missed a beat, his mother knows it could have been more serious.
"It deals with the brain. It's not like you can go in there and fix it like a broken arm or a broken leg," said Knapp.