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Norwalk mom looks for support for Council’s concussion program

A chart posted on Facebook by Katherine Snedaker.

A chart posted on Facebook by Katherine Snedaker.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s youngest athletes would get the protections their older peers receive under a measure to be voted on by the Common Council Tuesday – new concussion guidelines modeled after The Concussion Aware and Prepared Program.

The Recreations and Parks Committee recently approved the program, which is intended to “plug the loophole that exists in the current Connecticut Concussion Law which protects only public middle and high school athletes who play for school-sponsored teams,” according to a press release. This is the result of a 2-year long collaboration between Recreation and Parks Department Director Mike Mocciae and former Norwalk Junior Lacrosse and RCA Soccer Coach, Katherine Snedaker, now executive director of the non-profit, Pink Concussions.com, and advocacy organization SportsCAPP.com.

Snedaker is using Facebook to encourage parents to come out Tuesday and support the new policy.

“So proud – We have created a safety net which is close to the standard set by law for all middle and high school athletes who play for their schools. Our youngest and most vulnerable athletes will now be able to play their sports with trained coaches. Increasing safety and lowering liability for coach, city and team … everyone wins here!” she wrote.

She said 77 Norwalk Public Students have been diagnosed with concussions so far this school year, 19 of which were from non-school sports and thus are not covered by the Connecticut’s concussion law.

The new guidelines will apply to organized youth sports programs utilizing Norwalk recreation facilities, the press releases states.

“Since the City provides the fields for play we are a natural fit to only award use to those that have educated their parents and provide trained coaches,” Mocciae said in the release.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Diane Beltz-Jacobson helped Snedaker write the guidelines, which apply to any youth up to age 19 who participates in any organized sporting or athletic event or activity either conducted by the city of Norwalk or permitted to take place on any property or facility owned by the city of Norwalk, the release states. Activities include practices, training, performances, scrimmage, games and other organized competitions involving athletic activities such as sports and dance.

The program, which uses free online materials from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is designed to provide up-to-date information regarding concussions for youth coaches and their staffs, parents and youth players and is available in English and Spanish, the release states. The program consists of four parts:

  1. Educating Coaches, Parents, and Athletes;
  2. Removing INJURED Athletes from Play;
  3. Obtaining Medical Clearance to Return to Play;
  4. Reporting to Recreation & Parks any concussions each season.

“Great work,” Lisa Lenskold said on Facebook. “I’m just thinking about logistics. Who will determine if a player is injured and shouldn’t return to play? I.E.: coach says kid is injured, parent says he’s fine, etc. (or vice versa) … Also, what’s the age for a baseline test?”

Snedaker replied:

  • Coaches will take the CDC online course – 20 minutes, free and can be taken from iPhone, iPad or computer.
  • When a coach feels a player is showing the signs, symptoms OR behaviors that could mean a possible head injury, then the child is out of the practice or game for 24 hours and must have a note from a medical provider to return to play. If a parents refuses medical care for their child, then after a waiting period of 10 days the parent can sign a waiver assuming all risk and return child to sport (under CT law for middle and high school sports, there is no parent waiver).

“There is no mention of baseline testing in these guidelines and I personally do not believe baseline testing has value. It is only one tool used after a child has recovered from a concussion. I have changed my opinion on these baseline tests 180 degrees,” Snedaker wrote.

Snedaker has been pushing for more concussion awareness for the past six years, the press release states. Two of her sons have suffered multiple concussions. She advises sports teams, schools, and medical providers as well as parents and athletes and has appeared on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, NBC-Connecticut, Sports Illustrated Online, and in media/radio programs across North America and Europe, the release states.

“Hopefully this program will be a model for the rest of state,” she said in the release. “Parents will now know their young children will have some of the same protections that benefit public middle and high school athletes.”

The new policy is supported by Norwalk Lacrosse Association President Jack Couch, Norwalk Junior Soccer Association President Bob Fosina and Mayor Harry Rilling, the release states.

“It is important that our children are protected and that parents and coaches have the information they need to keep them safe,” Rilling said in the release. “Norwalk is proud to be a leader in providing these updated guidelines for all leagues who play on our public fields. We aim to make youth sports as safe as possible.”

If passed, the guidelines would take effect April 15.

Concussions

The Common Council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Council chambers, located on the third floor of City Hall. 

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