Tackling concussions head on

Published 1:07 am Sunday, January 29, 2012

We are  one week away from what many consider to be the most significant day of the year in sports — Super Bowl Sunday.
What is often overlooked amid all the hoopla of the big game is the inherent danger of participating in a high-contact sport like football.
It was in the fall of 2008 when Jaquan Waller, a junior running back at J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, died after suffering two blows to the head within a 72-hour period. Waller’s cause of death was listed as “second impact syndrome.” A fatal swelling of the brain occurred when he took a blow to the head before the first brain injury completely healed.
That same season, Matt Gfeller, a sophomore linebacker at Winston-Salem’s R.J. Reynolds High School, suffered a severe helmet-to-helmet collision during his first varsity football game and died two days later.
Two unfortunate deaths within weeks of each other prompted the state of North Carolina to pass the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Beverly Perdue last summer. The law requires public schools to provide concussion-awareness education to student-athletes, parents, coaches, volunteers and first-responders. Athletes in contact sports who exhibit signs of a concussion are not allowed to participate until cleared by a medical professional.
Pitt County Schools has entered into a partnership with East Carolina University in which licensed ECU athletic trainers attend every football practice and game in the county. The program will be featured on CNN’s documentary “Big Hits, Broken Dreams” at 8 p.m. tonight.
Last August, the Beaufort County Board of Education expedited its policy requiring student-athletes in contact sports to take a baseline screening test, which doctors may use to determine the severity of an injury.
It is encouraging that the state of North Carolina as well as Pitt and Beaufort counties have taken the lead when it comes to preventing sports-related fatalities.
That’s a super win for all.