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New VHSL rule on concussions empowers referee


By Kevin Harris

The quarterback takes the snap and drops back into the pocket. He fires a bullet to a receiver coming over the middle. Just when you think he is going to get a big gain a linebacker comes out of nowhere and lays a big hit on the receiver. The receiver gets up, but is dazed. The referee notices but says nothing.

Under the old VHSL concussion policy the referee had no power or say if a player got sent off because of signs of a concussion. Now, with the new concussion policy, the referee can send a player off if he believes the player has a concussion.

“If a referee told me to leave the game then I would be mad and try to argue with him,” said senior running back/linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

“At first I would be mad but then I would look back and see that he was only trying to help me out,” sophomore running back/linebacker Caleb Johnson said.

The player must then be checked out by a certified medical physician. If the player is cleared, he can go back in, but if the player is found to have a concussion, he cannot participate in activities for the rest of that day and cannot return to physical activity until he is cleared.

The new policy also says that each school division must set guidelines and policies to educate coaches, parents, and players. Such as making sure that each year the player and their parents review information on concussion and sign off that they received that information. They must also set guidelines on the identification and handling of concussions.

“It is the correct way to go,” junior linebacker/running back DaQuon Chapman said. “Getting a concussion never crosses my mind while I am playing.”

Concussions have become a topic of concern in not only high school but also in professional and college athletics. The problem is that the athletes are coming back too soon after getting a concussion, or they are not being checked out by proper medical physicians. Concussions are a form of mild traumatic brain injuries.

“A concussion is when you are hit forcibly and your brain moves and hits your skull,” school nurse Kimberly Brown said.

During the October 22 football game against Thomas Dale, junior kicker/punter Travis Taylor was diagnosed with a concussion. He was taken out of the game and did not return. “When I got to the sidelines they did a flashlight test,” Taylor said.

Symptoms that doctors look for when diagnosing a concussion are headache, blurred vision, unequal pupils, nausea, and confusion. Treatment includes Tylenol for the pain and rest with no physical activity for 1 week.

Even after one week of rest, the player will still need to get medical clearance by a doctor or another certified medical physician.
According to the Roanoke Times, after a player is cleared to play they still need to be eased back into playing. This is done by first doing light aerobic activity, followed by sport specific exercises such as drills. Then non-contact drills precede full contact practice. By doing this, the player insures that they are ready to get back on the field.

VHSL has made these changes to its concussion policy for the safety of the athletes involved. People agree that they are good changes. The changes will hopefully have an immediate impact and help players when they have concussions.

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  • J

    Jessica MarshallNov 7, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    This article is interesting. I think that there should be rules concerning the saftey and health of the players, they’re high school students for goodness sakes. Yes, it might make some players made they get sent off the field but it’s better than never being allowed to set foot on the field again because you continue to play after an injury.

  • J

    Joseph P.Nov 7, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    In response to Jamar’s comment, in football there are many more minor injuries than in soccer, and refs understand this, so in the past they would not send players off as often unless it was obvious that the player was unable to perform safely. However, a ref did have the power to send players off the field for several things, such as bleeding. Wether or not that power was in the rulebook did not matter, because players are supposed to listen to the refs at all times.

  • T

    Tessa AllenNov 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I definitely think football safety guidelines are sometimes slow to catch up to medical standards, and I am an avid fan of the game. There are always going to be injuries that can not be prevented and there are always going to be players that say they are alright when they are not, by putting the power in the ref’s hands, you eliminate the bias. I think this is a great development.

  • M

    Malikah WilliamsNov 7, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    This article is very interesting. I never knew that before referees could not send the players off the field. I do however believe that this is a change that was needed. Concussions have become a increasing occurence that later in life can hinder people as seen in retired football players and boxers.

  • J

    Jamar JohnsonNov 7, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Referees didn’t have the power to send off players for signs of a concussion until this year? I wonder how many players have gotten brain damage due to referees not sending off players. I n soccer, the referee has full control over everything. I know because I’m a soccer referee. I remember when I took a hit to the throat extremely hard in a match, I was sent off for wheezing when I got back up. Football referees should have had this power a long time ago, especially since this is a contact sport. Why did soccer refs have this power before football refs if soccer isn’t a “contact sport”?

  • J

    Joseph P.Nov 7, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Concussions have been one of the most discussed topics over the past few years. Companies have been making newer, more protective helmets to help in the effort to reduce the amount of head injuries in football. The NFL has been cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits because of the recent spike in head injuries. Because of all of the dangers that come with concussions, the new VHSL rules are definitely a good thing. As a player myself, if a ref or a coach did not tell me to leave the game then I probably wouldn’t. So the rules have and will protect the players.