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Local student athletes getting educated on concussion awareness


Jessica Watts

NORTH VALLEY – Brainbook and the Arizona Interscholastic Association have teamed up to educate student athletes about concussion awareness.

The AIA requires every student athletes to take a concussion class and pass a test before being allowed to compete in a sport. The class and test is done through Brainbook, and educates the players on what concussions are, signs and symptoms of possible concussions, and how serious concussions can be. Sandra Day O’Connor High School is making sure all their student athletes are educated about concussions.
Because concussions awareness has become more common, the football team at O’Connor contracted with Safe Football to help teach proper technique. The Safe Football class taught the athletes the correct way to tackle, block, and hit without having straight contact with heads. Head football coach John Rodriguez requires each athlete to pump up their helmet up every day before practice and extra on game days.

“We have found that is probably the number one reason why kids are getting concussions – because they are not keeping their helmets pumped up enough during practice,” Rodriguez said. “When those helmets are not aired up like they are supposed to be, that can also lead to concussions.”

Rodriguez continued to say that concussions have been decreasing at O’Connor due to teaching proper tackling and not going full go until game day.

“Our kids don’t need to take that kind of beating during the week and then go out on Friday and lay it on line,” Rodriguez added. “We try to do everything we can to help prevent it.”

O’Connor required all the athletes on the football team do a pre-screening called Impact Testing. The test is a base-line test which measures the reaction time and memory of all the athletes. If an athlete has signs or symptoms of a concussion, athletic trainers will compare both test results (before and after) to see how much the concussion has impacted them or if the athlete is ready to return. O’Connor will be extending the Impact Testing to all sports in the future.

Recognizing concussions signs leads to more accurate concussion reporting, and Jennifer Guerrette, head athletic trainer at O’Connor has seen more athletes reporting concussions.

“Players are more aware of telling us if they might have had a concussion, so we can monitor it a little bit better,” Guerrette said. “More people are actually reporting that have had one, but that is good because that means before they were just playing through it and not necessarily reporting it.”

With all the concussion awareness O’Connor is providing and mandating, athletic director Chandler Evans has seen a decrease in concussions.

“The coaches are making sure their technique is proper and there are different ways they are teaching it now,” Evans said. “Instead of old school teaching them to hit with their heads, it has led to a decrease in concussions.”