With concussions on the rise among high school and collegiate athletes, Montgomery County Public Schools is investigating a program to try to do something about it.
MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr announced Tuesday that MCPS is considering a district-wide baseline testing program to assist in identifying student athletes who suffer concussions and to help in determining when they can safely return to the playing field, according to a news release.
Starr told the Montgomery County Board of Education that MCPS will request proposals from outside providers that can administer and maintain the baseline testing program, according to the release. MCPS also will form a work group to determine what information should be included in the request.
“The long-term effects of concussions and head injuries are being discussed across the country and are the subject of a growing body of research,” Starr said in a statement. “I think we must explore a districtwide baseline testing program as part of our ongoing efforts to keep our student athletes safe and healthy.”
Quince Orchard head varsity football coach Dave Mencarini told Patch a countywide program would be beneficial for all MCPS student-athletes.
"With concussions being a hot topic in all sports, it’s nice to see that a school system looks into taking the next step in process," Mencarini told Patch. "While having all athletes pre-tested will not decrease risk, it can help in the recovery once a concussion occurs to ensure an athlete is not back on the field before he or she is completely ready."
Currently, nine MCPS high schools—including Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Montgomery Blair, Winston Churchill, Damascus, Walter Johnson, Quince Orchard, Richard Montgomery, Walt Whitman and Thomas S. Wootton—offer baseline testing to at least some of their student athletes, MCPS spokesperson Dana Tofig told Patch.
MCPS policy requires any athlete who is exhibiting concussion-related symptoms to be removed from a game immediately and prohibited from returning until cleared by a medical professional.
Dr. Craig Miller, an Orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, volunteers at Northwest High School football games as the team's physician.
"Our policy at Northwest High School with the football team is that either myself or my trainer evaluates the student athlete at the time of injury and determines not only whether it is safe for the athlete to return to play that day — rarely —but also if the athlete requires further immediate evaluation at a local emergency room or if they will merely need to follow up with [a doctor] to determine when it is safe for the athlete to return to play," Miller told Patch in an email.
It's unclear if students participating only in school-sponsored sports—such as football, basketball and baseball—would be eligible for the prospective testing or if students participating in club sports such as ice hockey or contact sports outside of school could also take advantage of the program.
"These are the type of issues the work group must consider," Tofig said.
Editor's Note: This article was updated at 10 a.m. Wednesday to include comment from Quince Orchard coach Dave Mencarini and Dr. Craig Miller.