Cambrian: Sports

Concussion law unlikely to affect Coast Union football

Seeking to reduce the number of brain injuries high school and middle-school football players sustain, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last week limiting full-contact practices during the season and preseason and prohibiting those collisions during the offseason.

Though Bill 2127 won’t become law until Jan. 1, Coast Union Head Coach Bill Clough weighed on what impact the legislation might have on Broncos’ practice sessions.

“It doesn’t really change things for us,” Clough explained during a phone interview from New Hampshire, where he is vacationing. “We are already adhering to those standards,” he said, referring to the part of the legislation that allows only two, 90-minute, full-contact practice sessions weekly.

“Last season, we only went full pads twice a week; we never practice more than two hours at a time, and we never have full contact during the offseason.”

“We don’t go full intensity very often in practice anyway. We walk such a fine line with depth and injuries,” Clough explained, noting that as a small school, Coast Union doesn’t have the luxury of a large roster with experienced players available to fill in when injuries occur.

“You can teach tackling fundamentals without tackling, but you still have to give them a chance to demonstrate their skills,” Clough said.

Bethany Magnuson is the certified physical trainer for Coast Union, and although she is not medically authorized to diagnose a concussion, when a football player takes a powerful hit to the helmet, she does use the “SCAT-2” test to look for symptoms that suggest the need for further testing.

The SCAT-2 is a brief test she uses that tests balance, coordination and memory. “It’s a 10-minute test” that she gives on the sidelines of a game or a practice session.

“If they have any symptoms like headaches or dizziness, or if they have sensitivity to light or sound, or if they can’t keep their balance — or if they are acting differently — then they are not allowed to go back in ” to a game or a practice session, Magnuson explained.

She also referred to a further procedure called an “impact test,” which is done using a computer and is administered within 48 hours of an incident.

The player takes the impact test results to the team doctor, who uses it to help determine whether the player has indeed sustained a concussion.

Magnuson believes the only verifiable procedure that can be used to determine whether a concussion has been sustained is by using a CAT Scan. “But the doctor examines the player for symptoms and makes his professional determination,” she explained.

In a phone interview, the trainer recalled two incidents last football season in which players who experienced strong hits to the helmet were kept out of contact for “a couple days.” But to her knowledge, there were no medically diagnosed concussions on the Coast Union football team in 2013.

Looking ahead

Aug. 11: The Broncos begin preseason practice the week of Aug. 11, launching into three days of conditioning on Aug. 13.

Aug. 18: The first official day the Broncos can practice in pads after a CIF-mandated “dead period” ends.

Sept. 5: The Broncos play their first game of the 2014 season at Fresno Christian High School.