Parish agrees to fund concussion testing

CENTERVILLE — In response to recent legislation enacted across the state that requires a concussion awareness pro-gram be instituted for student athletes who participate in contact sports, the St. Mary Parish School Board has agreed to fund a program that will improve doctors’ decision making in releasing athletes to return to play after adequate recovery from these injuries.

During Wednesday’s budget workshop, the board agreed to allocate $15,000 for a program, which will be monitored by Louisiana Athletic Care.

The New Iberia-based group, who already is contracted with the school district to provide trainers for its athletic sports, has developed a plan to implement a program in which students are run through computerized testing to help doctors determine when athletes are ready to return to action following a concussion.

Beginning this week, the districts 600 to 900 student athletes will be screened so a baseline snapshot of their brain’s condition and how they respond to certain situations is captured.

If any of these athletes suffer a concussion, they will be run through this computerized testing again during their recovery to determine if they are well enough to return to the field or court.

St. Mary Parish will become one of the first local school systems to implement this concussion law program, parish Athletic Director Lenny Armato said.

Their technique of choice, he said already is used by college and NFL teams.

“I think a lot of school boards will be coming to see what we’re doing,” Armato said.

By utilizing Louisiana Athletic Care for this process, Armato said the school district would have access to one of the few doctors in the area who specializes in concussions.

“We feel very good about this, because it covers every part of the concussion law,” Armato said of the program. “It gets the liability out of our hands, and it’s really a minimal cost for what they want to do for us.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal singed the concussion awareness bill, now known at ACT 314, into law. Sen. Sherri Cheek, R-Keithville, introduced the bill during this year's legislative session. It now is known as Act 314.

Armato said testing of athletes who participate in such contact sports as football, baseball, basketball, softball and soccer all would be complete by the beginning of football season.

At the end of this month, the parish’s junior high and high school coaches will be briefed about the concussion law as well as heat related measures to protect the district’s athletes as the prepare for upcoming seasons.

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