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Cleveland Hill board is given report on athlete concussions

With concussions in pro sports becoming a major point of discussion nationally, the Cleveland Hill School Board heard a report Wednesday night about what the district is doing to take care of its student athletes.

"Concussions are quite the hot topic right now," said Katherine McKenzie, athletic trainer for the district. "We're really going to tackle it very hard and make sure everybody's safe."

McKenzie explained that she is part of a concussion management team in the district, which includes two head coaches and a school nurse, which helps students recover from concussion before they return to action.

With recent studies reporting that concussions cause major neurological damage, officials are treating the issue much more seriously than they have in the past.

"We used to say, 'Oh, he got his bell rung,' " McKenzie said. "We don't say that anymore."

If an athlete loses consciousness at some point during a game, an ambulance is called. If the athlete is confused about where they are or what they are doing, they are taken to the hospital.

In order for a concussed student athlete to return to play, they first must be symptom-free for 24 hours and then be examined by a physician. Once the doctor signs a release, the athlete begins to return to active status with a five-part progressive process, starting with light aerobic activity.

If the athlete returns too soon, he or she risks a second concussion and sudden impact syndrome, which may cause death. The athlete's physician and the district's concussion management team regularly monitor the athlete's progress during the recovery process.

McKenzie said the district also is purchasing a computer program called ImPACT that will test reaction times and memory as a way to establish a baseline status for every athlete.