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State’s concussion bill draws mixed reactions

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AS director of the Indiana Football Coaches Association, Columbus East coach Bob Gaddis is somewhat pleased with Senate Bill 222.

Gaddis’ concern, however, is that the IFCA was not involved in the process that led to new requirements for high school and youth football coaches in the state. Coaches must now have concussion awareness training. In addition, a 24-hour waiting period was added for players who are suspected of sustaining a concussion. He isn’t sure state lawmakers know how much coaches already do to try to prevent them.

Gov. Mike Pence, a Columbus native, signed the bill into law March 24, and it will take effect July 1. Gaddis was invited to the signing but was unable to attend.

The law, the first of its kind in the nation, states that high school and youth head and assistant coaches must take a concussion awareness course approved by the State Department of Education every two years. They must then pass a test that covers the course content. USA Football is the only entity that currently offers the test, and that costs $25.

“We’re all in agreement that we want to make the game safer,” Gaddis said. “We want people to have an opportunity to get trained, but not make it prohibitive.”

Gaddis said IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox and assistant commissioner Robert Faulkens, who oversees football, are putting together a new presentation that all coaches at the secondary level can take for free. The IFCA hopes that extends to the coaches at the middle school level, as well.

“(The IHSAA is) actively putting together a training format that all of our coaches can take that addresses the concussion issue,” Gaddis said. “It’s going to be in addition to the rules test that coaches must take.

“What we envision it being is that we’ll be able to sit down in a room and maybe look at a PowerPoint presentation. We would like to make sure that it’s focused on safety and prevention, and I know that’s what the IHSAA wants it to focus on.”

Gaddis said Faulkens took the test through USA Football.

“His opinion of the test was that it wasn’t really what high school coaches needed to see,” Gaddis said. “It was about a three-hour test that wasn’t relevant to all the safety aspects that we need to be trained for.”

Gaddis said there is already a concussion awareness form in place from the department of education. The form details concussion facts and symptoms. It also outlines what coaches and trainers should do in the event of a concussion.

“It’s a fact sheet that is very good for the athletes and the parents,” Gaddis said.

Columbus Regional Hospital has also given East and Columbus North plenty of concussion awareness information about signs and symptoms and where to seek care. Gaddis, who is also East’s athletics director, said he makes that information available to all of his school’s athletes.

“If a coach is properly trained on the symptoms of the concussion, they would take the precaution and remove the athlete from competition,” Gaddis said. “We would also involve the athletic trainers and the team doctors. We would take all the precautions that should be taken if there were concussion symptoms, and that’s in every sport. Football is not the only sport where kids get concussions. We want them to be available to all.”

CRH provides two full-time athletic trainers at each high school. Part of their job is to be available for middle school athletic events.

“I feel like we’re in a school corporation that takes this very seriously and is ahead of the curve,” North football coach Tim Bless said. “If this is about young men’s safety or players’ safety, it’s a positive thing.”

Foundation For Youth athletics director Gabe Miller, who oversees the PAAL football program, agrees.

“I think putting this new concussion law into effect is a great step in helping promote the safety of football,” Miller said. “USA Football has really taken the necessary steps in doing everything they can to keep not only NFL and high school players safe, but also youth participants, as well.

“PAAL is definitely going to abide by this law and policy as we strive to make our program as safe as we can for the participants,” he said. “We are already planning out ways for PAAL to take on the cost of the coaches training for all head and assistant coaches in our program.”

Gaddis hopes the IHSAA can do the same for its coaches.

“It’s here. It’s a law, and we’ll abide by it,” Gaddis said. “We’re just hoping the IHSAA can make it available for all our coaches to take it.”

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