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Miami-Dade undertakes measures to protect against brain injury

High school athletes are the target of two new requirements to hopefully protect against traumatic brain injuries. The Florida High School Athletics Association and the Miami-Dade and Broward counties have changed how coaches and schools will deal with concussed athletes. The measures are intended to slow an injured player's return to the field where he or she needs more recovery time.

There have been numerous stories of high school, college, or professional athletes who suffer concussions and head back onto the field too early. For some, there is no detectable problem with an early return, but suffer the effects of the brain injury much later; others have collapsed and been hospitalized; and some tragically die after failing to rest and recuperate properly after a brain injury. Physicians are becoming increasingly aware that untreated brain injuries can have serious effects later in life.

Players who have suffered concussions can experience anything ranging from minor pain or dizziness to a changed personality. Injured athletes who develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy can also expect some degeneration.

In order to ensure that high school athletes are receiving the proper care for head injuries, the state high school athletic association now requires anyone suspected of having a concussion to be released by a doctor before resuming activity. Two of the doctors who will be responsible for clearing athletes work with The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis Concussion Clinic at the University of Miami and refuse to clear an athlete online. They insist on seeing him or her in person before giving a medical release.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties' schools are also reforming how they deal with concussed athletes. Students must take a cognitive test before their athletic season even starts. This test forms a baseline from which the severity of a concussion can be measured and compared. If an athlete suffers a brain injury, he or she will participate in Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT). The online test will determine whether the athlete's attention span, memory recall, reaction time and non-verbal problem solving skills have been affected.

Source: The Miami Herald, "New rules protect student athletes from brain injuries," Lola Duffort, Aug. 16, 2011

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