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Maryland Politician to Introduce Pilot Program to Protect High School Athletes from Concussions

Maryland Delegate Jon S. Cardin, who isa running for attorney general in that state, plans to introduce a bill creating a pilot program testing the efficacy of athletic helmet impact sensors for high school athletes.

Under the pilot program, each local school district will distribute impact sensors to a limited number of their high school athletes. The cost of the program and the impact sensors will be paid for by the sensor manufacturers in order to limit costs to school districts, according to Cardin.

In 2010, the Legislature passed a comprehensive concussion prevention program which included provisions that makes sure high school athletes cannot participate in sports while suffering from concussions or their debilitating symptoms. The problem now, according to Cardin, is that there are few objective measures for determining when an athlete has suffered a concussion which triggers the 2010 concussion law requiring him or her to be removed from the sporting event. Impact sensors bridge this gap by creating a reliable mechanism to show when an athlete has likely suffered a large impact to the head likely to cause a concussion.

“We are at a technological point where we can identify when a child has suffered a brain injury and should no longer be on the athletic field for their own safety,” said Cardin. “There are tremendous pressures on athletes and coaches to keep kids playing through injuries in the game that lead to long term and life altering consequences. Impact sensors remove these pressures and give us an objective way to measure brain injuries.”

According to Dr. David Rivara, Vice Chair of the Pediatrics Department at the University of Washington in Seattle, while there are often rules in effect requiring athletes with brain injuries to be removed from a game, “if children cover up injuries because they’ve been told that ‘you can’t let the team down’ or a parent or coach assumes a blow to the head is minor, this creates a dangerous ‘league of denial.’”

Greg Merril, CEO of Brain Sentry (http://brainsentry.com/), an impact sensor manufacturer located in Bethesda, Maryland said “Over the past 10 years research has provided significant insight into mild traumatic brain injury.  We now know that it is critical to identify children that have suffered concussions so we can allow them to heal prior to returning to play.  The biggest challenge is that concussions are very difficult to identify. Sensor technology is now available that can help detect unusually large impacts that may be experienced by children when they participate in sports.  These sensors are extremely easy to use and are now very affordable.   There is now no reason that this technology should not be required as standard equipment for helmeted sports.”

Cardin added: “I have heard too many stories of children suffering from concussions that can no longer play the sports they love and worse yet; their quality of life suffers as they are forced to spend hours in dark rooms because too much light gives them headaches. We have the technology to protect young athletes, and I think it is about time we step up to the plate and do so.”

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