The National Football League isn't the only athletic entity concerned about concussions.
The Warren County School District is, too.
The WCSD board of directors unanimously approved a concussion policy on Monday night that, among other things, imposes stiff penalties on coaches who violate the policy's return to play rules.
Prior to participation in any district-sanctioned athletic activity, "Every student athlete and his/her parent/guardian shall sign and return the acknowledgment of receipt and review of the Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury Information Sheet."
The policy also permits each school to hold an informational meeting to discuss head injuries, the importance of proper concussion management as well as to outline the importance of baseline concussion testing.
The policy places concussion detection on the shoulders of a host of individuals - game officials, coaches, certified athletic trainers, doctors or "other appropriate medical professional(s)."
Before the start of a sport's season, all coaches will be required to participate is an approved concussion management course.
From there the policy is clear. Any student athlete who "exhibits signs or symptoms of a concussion or traumatic brain injury while participating in an athletic activity shall be removed by the coach from participation at that time."
Once removed, a student athlete will sit out until he or she is cleared "for return to participation in writing by an appropriate medical professional," the policy reads.
Mirrored by state law, a coach who violates the return to play policy and knowingly plays a student athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion will be suspended for the remainder of the season. For a second offense, a coach will be suspended for the remainder of the season and banned for an additional year.
According to the policy, a third violation results in "permanent suspension from coaching any athletic activity."
While the policy expressly covers interscholastic athletic contests, club sports affiliated with the school, school-based cheerleading and all practices and scrimmages, the topic of "open gyms" school-sanctioned, pre-season sessions open to everyone that take place before official practices are permitted by the PIAA isn't so clear.
"Would our staff need to treat potentially concussive (conditions) in the same fashion there?" board member Jack Werner asked. He noted that the 'open gym' sessions are held prior to a student's physical. "Accidents happen. A head gets bumped," he said. He also pointed out, "Our staff is there, not on contract, as volunteers or just staff."
Solicitor Chris Byham said the definition of athletic activity is "verbatim from the statutory definition." He said that, in his opinion, open gym sessions do not fall under that definition.
Werner asked if "we can require of our staff to be aware and diligent and supervisory in these situations?" Byham said that the term "coach" is not defined by the statute.
"It says associated with the school," Board President Arthur Stewart said.