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Health

State task force on concussions hears public testimony

During a public hearing Monday about preventing concussions in student-athletes, the state Board of Physicians questioned why the issue has not been included in a task force's work and offered its assistance.

The Maryland State Department of Education task force was created to gather research and public comment as the state considers new regulations to prevent concussions. The state school board passed emergency regulations in July requiring that coaches be trained to identify head injuries and that students be pulled from games after they suffer suspected concussions. The regulations are in effect for 180 days while the board looks at the issue.

Dr. Yemisi Koya, manager of communications, education and policy for the state Board of Physicians, said that although the board was not included in the task force it is offering its assistance. "The board has resources at its disposal and expertise to lend to this process that it designed to recommend dynamic … and far-reaching strategies to ensure safety of this effort," he said.

Task force co-chair Edward "Ned" Sparks, who is also executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, said that legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2011 on concussion safety spelled out specifically who would be involved and that the state, not the task force, has the authority to add the group to the efforts.

Among those also speaking before the task force was Tom Hearn, who said his son sustained a concussion playing junior varsity football during a game last year. He said that because of a breakdown in parent notification protocols, "he was allowed to participate in a full-contact practice two days later. At that time his symptoms became very significant, and his recovery extended out over several months."

Hearn said that his son is much better but added about the protocols: "Everything that was supposed to happen didn't happen."

Hearn, who lives in Montgomery County, praised the efforts of Howard County to address concussion safety but criticized Montgomery. "Montgomery County shares a border with Howard County, but they're as different as North Korea and South Korea when it comes to concussion safety," he said.

The task force said it will present its findings and recommendations to the state school board in January. Board members have said they will not shy away from unpopular steps, including limiting practices.

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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