Rising concussion numbers have spurred LA Unified to examine how to better monitor head injuries and ensure the safety of student athletes.
“I love football,” said board member Richard Vladovic, who noted that this week the NFL for the first time recognized a link between football and brain disorders. “But I’m very concerned about long-term effects on our children. We need to look at this for our children and warn families of the risks.”
The Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee asked for a report on sports safety with the possibility of bringing additional safety recommendations to the full board. Their call comes in the wake of last year’s Will Smith biopic “Concussion” about the doctor who brought the issue to light.
The LA Unified statistics presented Tuesday to the committee show that 222 concussions or possible concussion injuries have occurred so far this year, compared to 199 for the entire 2014-2015 school year. But it doesn’t mean that more concussions have occurred, only that the district has better ways of identifying and reporting them.
LA Unified has 30,000 students involved in 14 sports from golf to water polo. Cheering will become an official sport districtwide in the 2017-2018 school year.
“We feel these are only a portion of actual concussions,” said the district’s director of student medical services, Dr. Kimberly Uyeda. “I think we are doing better in collecting the data.”
Trenton Cornelius, the district’s Interscholastic Athletics Coordinator, noted that the statistics may be alarming and said more concussions occur in soccer than football. He said, “It appears like we are doing worse, but we are getting better with treatment and diagnosis about concussions. Our athletic personnel are trained, and it is due to the training that we see the concussion numbers have increased. I fully expect this trend will decline as more safety protocols are in place. We see an increase because now there is education and training to diagnose and report, so this is the only way that we have documentation to see that these kids are treated.
In the past, students who were hit on the field and knocked down but say they are OK would be put back into the game immediately, but that doesn’t happen anymore, insisted Earl Perkins, the assistant superintendent for school operations. He said that six high schools have medically trained personnel at games through a pilot program, and they hope to expand that in the future.