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As High School Football Season Draws Near, Academy Continues Concussion Education Program

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Concussions can also occur when something hits the body with so much force that it makes the brain to bounce around within the skull. Photo: newhealthadvisor.com

By Eric Mann |

As high school football season in the state of Alabama draws near, the United States Sports Academy is continuing its important work to educate Mobile, Ala., high school athletes about sport-related concussion issues.

This summer, Academy Chair of Sports Management Dr. Brandon Spradley and doctoral student and lecturer Robert Herron are visiting high schools in the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) to inform and educate athletes, athletic trainers, and coaches about sport-related concussions.

Since 2016, the Academy has worked with the University of South Alabama (USA) Department of Neurology and the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) under the Concussion Awareness Program (CAP), funded in part by a grant from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to USA. Under the program directed by USA, the University and the Academy developed procedures for use by the school system to better protect student athletes from the negative health consequences of concussions. Students, coaches and others involved in contact sports programs are provided training on concussion awareness and prevention. Protocols are also put in place to make sure that student athletes who receive concussions are not allowed to return to play until medical professionals approve.

Spradley said the program is geared not only toward educating athletes about concussions, but also toward improving their attitude about them.

“We want this program to help the athlete make an educated decision when their safety is on the line,” Spradley said. “We want them to be educated about the signs and symptoms of concussion, but we also want them to be able to make an informed decision about it. We also want to help athletes be confident to help their peers if the situation arises.”

Spradley has been a key member of a team of Academy faculty who have played a role in encouraging and implementing concussion research and education programs across Baldwin and Mobile counties on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, including a program in concert with the University of South Alabama to mitigate the impact of concussion among football players in the Mobile County Public School System.

“It is important that we teach young athletes to have the right attitude and mindset toward concussions and to improve their behavior and willingness to report concussion symptoms,” Spradley said. “We have to do everything we can to educate people to be more aware of concussions so that the sports we play are as safe as they can be.”

The second element of the program relates to ensuring that athletes with concussions are given proper medical treatment and not allowed to resume competing until medically cleared. This is achieved by medical intervention and by using the King-Devick Test and the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) 5 test. After suffering a concussion or suspected concussion, the tests are taken again. Under the protocol, players suspected to have suffered concussions cannot resume competition unless released by medical professionals.

Concussion has become a major issue of concern in contact sports in recent years, especially in relation to the discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, among professional football players and other athletes. Caused by repeated blows to the head and recurring concussions, the disease has been blamed for cognitive and intellectual impairment, mood disorders, depression, drug abuse, and suicide attempts among elite athletes.

In addition to its involvement in CAP, the Academy offers a free online course on sport-related concussions which provides an in-depth review of the risks, prevention, recognition, treatment and management of sport-related concussions. The course also discusses the importance of awareness and education strategies for coaches, athletes, parents, administrators, and health care professionals. The course is available by going to www.ussa.edu/free-courses.

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports.

The Academy is based in Daphne, Ala. For more information, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.

Eric Mann is the director of communications and marketing at the United States Sports Academy.

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