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September 12, 2013

To combat concussions, lawmakers urged to require tests

BOSTON — Moments after scoring a goal during a high school soccer game, Molly Caron received a blow to the back of her head.

Effects of the concussion she received from the hit lasted nine months, and disrupted her school work and ability to play sports, Caron told lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Public Health who are contemplating a bill that would require baseline testing for student athletes (H 1928).

Baseline tests before an injury occurs would help doctors determine if it is okay for athletes to return to the field. For results to be effective, athletes would take another test following an injury to give doctors and coaches an indication of the severity of a concussion, according to doctors who testified in favor of the proposal.

The legislation, filed by Rep. Angelo D’Emilia (R-Bridgewater) and Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), would require the Department of Public Health “create, implement and maintain mandatory baseline concussion testing for all high school aged athletes enrolled in public school or any school, private or otherwise, that is subject to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules.”

High school athletes sustain an estimated 136,000 to 300,000 concussions per year, according to momsTEAM, a website for parents of student athletes.

Dr. Daniel Hughes, who treated Caron following her injury, said baseline tests would make it easier for doctors to manage concussion care.

“We are doing, quite frankly, our children a disservice not using every instrument we have,” he said.

The test looks at short-term memory, retention, processing speeds and reaction time, as well as any other medical issues that may affect someone, according to Hughes. The test costs around $2 per test, he said.

Hughes said current sideline tests coaches and health officials give are “nothing more than a lie detector test” for athletes who desire to get back on the field. Baseline tests would also help doctors in cases where an athlete is not showing symptoms.

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