By Jason KUROSU
As the NFL has recently been forced to come to terms with the brutal realities of the sport, high schools have been concerned about the consequences of concussions and other serious head injuries for years. Numerous states including California have been working on passing stricter legislation regarding how these sorts of injuries are monitored and dealt with.
At Crescenta Valley High, precautionary measures are being taken.
“These head injuries have been one of the primary issues in the last few years,” said Booster Club President Bob Fletcher. The football team has both its trainer and a doctor on hand at every game. “If they see any signs [of injury] that seem suspicious, they will pull [the player] out.”
But another, more preventative measure that’s been established is the usage of Xenith helmets. Developed by former Harvard quarterback Vin Ferrara, the Xenith helmet uses shock absorbers that can withstand impacts that the traditional foam found in most football helmets cannot. The helmets are becoming more widespread, not just throughout high school football, but also at the college level and in the NFL.
“This season, around 30% to 40% of the players on the team used Xenith helmets. It’s our hope that by 2012, every player will be wearing one,” Fletcher said, acknowledging, “but they are a little more expensive.”
Expensive indeed, as Xenith’s website has the helmets priced anywhere from $250 to $400. However the consensus seems to be that when it comes to their children, parents find that the cost is more than worth it.
“At the booster club, we’ve been using a percentage of our funds to purchase these helmets for the team,” Fletcher said, “but lots of parents bought them for their children with their money as well.”
In addition to the helmets already in use (the usage of which is hoped will spread), Crescenta Valley is looking into the possibility of implementing a computer system that will also aid them in getting their players the right treatment for any injuries and preventing them from sustaining any more.
It’s called ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing). Before and after games and/or practices, players would be instructed to sit before a laptop. They would then take the ImPACT test, which first consists of a questionnaire, asking the player about any past symptoms and how many hours of sleep they had and such. A series of tests would be administered, measuring the player’s memory, reaction time and visual recognition. ImPACT would then give the player a score based on those tests, from which the trainer, team doctor or coach could decide whether the player could suit up or not.
ImPACT is not being implemented at Crescenta Valley High yet, but Fletcher and trainer Junko Nakayama assure it will be.
“Yes, we are getting ImPACT,” Nakayama said.
The next step is getting the information to the district and the parents.
“I believe that educating the community is the most important aspect of this situation. I had a talk with Mr. Fletcher about setting up a meeting/in-service, so we can inform and discuss it with parents and athletes,” Nakayama said. “So I still have many things to do, but I’m very excited.”
The implementation of resources such as these will be preventative measures for the most part, but it is not as though Crescenta Valley has yet to be affected by concussions.
“Yes, we’ve certainly had a number of concussions this year,” Fletcher said. Fletcher does not treat the subject
lightly, as his son suffered a serious head injury playing football, which left him in the intensive care unit for seven days.
“I can’t say what the exact number is, but it has reduced since we started using the Xenith helmets.”
Fletcher and other parents whose children participate in sports can take some measure of relief from that, and hope for safer play in the future.