Nearly a decade has passed since the Legislature adopted New Mexico’s first law governing how concussions should be prevented, diagnosed and treated for youth playing sports in schools.
Residents will get a chance to weigh in on the proposed regulations, drafted by the New Mexico Department of Health and the Brain Injury Advisory Council, at a hearing on Tuesday at 10 am at the department’s Harold Runnels Building in Santa Fe.
Among the new regulations’ requirements is that all coaches for non-scholastic sports teams would have to review brain injury education materials once a year and pass a test on the information, to be officially included with their record. And athletes ages 11 and older and their parents would be required to sign a form saying that they took the the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s approved online concussion training.
Toby Rosenblatt, the Health Department’s Injury and Behavior Epidemiology Bureau chief, says the proposed regulations are a positive step forward “because [athletes] will be informed about dangerous concussions and the result of concussions before they start playing, and their parents will too.
Athletic trainers, who are licensed medical professionals and can more quickly and easily spot a concussion, are required at school-sanctioned sporting events. That won’t be the case in recreational league games.
A recent two-year study by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington Medicine’s Sports Health and Safety Institute found concussions are more likely to be reported with an athletic trainer present.
Whether to require so-called “baseline testing” is yet another difference in how concussions will be dealt with in the schools versus non-school sports. Essentially, it’s an exam conducted by a trained health care professional before an athlete starts a season to assess cognitive function, such as memory, balance, ability to concentrate and how quickly the athlete thinks and solves problems. When a concussion has possibly occurred, they can take the test again and see how they measure up against their “baseline.”
"Kids are maturing so quickly that a baseline test a year ago may not apply to what their current baseline would be," she adds.
The Santa Fe Public School District still provides and relies upon optional baseline testing for some of its football players through a contract with Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center.
“I don’t think it has any value because it doesn’t follow scientific modeling,” Moon says. “No double blind test. No control group … If I were going to do [baseline testing], I’d have … different dates, times, diets, things happening in life. Taking the first test does not protect my child. It has no effect.”