Cobb County goes beyond required concussion policy - CBS46 News

Cobb County goes beyond required concussion policy

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Concussions and the potential long-lasting effects have grabbed top headlines throughout the year. This week, Georgia Rep. Billy Mitchell plans to announce the early filing of the Georgia Return to Play Act. It would establish a protocol for what happens after a young athlete suffers a concussion and spells out guidelines on when they can to return to play.  

One school district shows they mean what they say when it comes to keeping young athletes safe. The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) requires high schools to have a concussion policy which is similar to the proposed Return to Play Act. Cobb County takes it one step further.

"We have to be careful at all levels of sport and in all sports in high school," Athletic Director Steve Jones said.

Cobb County schools have a set protocol for what should happen if a player in any sport is suspected of having a concussion. Jones sets the guidelines.

"If any coach suspects a kid of having a concussion or having concussive symptoms then they're immediately to contact the trainer, if they have a trainer on the sideline, or a doctor.  If they have, they immediately take them out of competition, or take them out of practice, and they are not to return to play until they're cleared by a doctor," Jones said.

Sprayberry High School football coach Billy Shackelford addresses the issue of concussions at the beginning of each year.

"We want parents to know they can put their kids in scholastic sports and they're going to be OK. We're going to take good care of them. I always want to error on the side of caution. That's how I operate a dad, that's how I operate as a football coach and as a teacher," Shackelford said.

Cobb County's football program takes the requirements one step past what the GHSA requires. They teamed up with Wellstar Health Systems and Children's Healthcare to offer impact testing free of charge. It's a computer system that helps determine when a athlete is ready to return to play.

"We'll do the base testing so we'll have measures to compare in the event somebody does get a concussion," Shackelford said.

"If they have concussion symptoms, then they take another test and those two scores are compared, and they take them to the doctor.  The doctor puts them on a return to play protocol," Jones said.

It's the same type of testing used by the University of Georgia. And Cobb's collective concussion plan mirrors what Mitchell proposes under Georgia's Return to Play Act. 

"What is paramount is that we protect our student athletes so they can go on and play another day, and that's the real purpose of this," Mitchell said.

The bill to protect young athletes failed last year, but Mitchell's confident he will have the support this next legislative session.

"I will almost say this is a foregone conclusion that this will be law," Mitchell said.

Opponents argue this could change the game. Shackelford only sees the benefits in how Cobb County is already tackling the topic. 

"We're talking about our kids. Obviously games in football are important to me, along with the players and coaches, but the kids are absolutely paramount," Shackelford said.

Experts warn if a player returns to play too soon after suffering a concussion, they could suffer brain damage.

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