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Concussion Prevention, Treatment Have Come a Long Way, Officials Say

Local athletic officials weigh in on the way coaches, officials, and players approach concussions in youth sports.

Football, and youth and high school sports, are a way of life for hundreds of Wayne kids. The increasing awareness of the dangers of concussions to those kids had led some to say they wouldn’t let their children play football.

President Barack Obama recently told The New Republic that he would “have to think long and hard” before letting his son play football.

But football isn’t the only sport whose athletes are at risk of sustaining serious head injures.

“It’s the nature of all sports. Once you put the word ‘competition’ in front of it there’s a risk that something may happen,” said John Lennon, athletic director of DePaul Catholic High School. “It is a remarkable thing, the care that’s been taken by athletic companies, helmet manufactures, and the sports leagues about the problem.”

Soccer players can get a concussion heading balls. Baseball players can get one being hit in the head with a ball or sliding into a base head first. But football is the sport that’s been receiving most of the attention regarding concussions.

“It’s a contact sport,” said Mike Miello, athletic director of the Wayne Public School District. “You could also say that every sport as a certain degree of risk involved with being injured.”

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) requires that all players and coaches must take a concussion awareness test online before a sport’s season begins.

If a player does sustain a head injury, the NJSIAA also requires that a doctor clear the player before he or she is allowed to play again. The association revised its concussion policy in 2011.

But football clearly bears the brunt of the blame when it comes to concussions.

“I think that they’ve taken great steps to deal with the issue,” Miello said. “On a high school level, it starts with the officials. They get a bad rap, but officials have made such a consciousness effort to control the game more and don’t allow head to head hits.”

— Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Daniel Hubbard at Daniel.Hubbard@patch.com or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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