AIA to address issue of concussions in high school sports

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PHOENIX – Concussions in sports – including high school sports – is an ongoing problem that can have serious long-term repercussions for athletes.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association is meeting Thursday to discuss the issue and hopefully come up with some ways to protect high school athletes and prevent concussions.

"[The issue] is gaining a lot attention based on the NFL awareness," said Chuck Schmidt. the chief operating officer of the AIA. "There's a lot of concern out there as to what kids are being exposed to."

During their recently wrapped session, the Arizona Legislature passed Senate Bill 1521, which not only requires education for athletes, parents and coaches, it also requires a player with a concussion to be immediately pulled from the game. Any athlete removed for a concussion will not be allowed to return until he or she is cleared by a doctor.

Arizona physicians say they are concerned because not only are they seeing an increase in concussions in young athletes, they also seeing more of the long-term effects of such head injuries in current and former athletes.

According to the AIA, 98 percent of athletes who suffer a concussion will recover with no issues. There is that small percentage who, if not treated properly, could suffer serious problems.

"The research is suggesting that children who are exposed to an extended period of time -- playing Pop Warner, as an example in football, up through high school -- ... those children are being exposed to some traumatic brain injuries even if it isn't diagnosed initially as a concussion," Schmidt said.

Thursday’s meetings will include experts from the Barrow Brain Research Center and athletic trainers from all over the state.

As part of protecting athletes, the AIA is looking at the possibility of banning kick-offs in football, as well as getting rid of the three-point stance for offensive linemen.

3TV's Varsity Zone will take an in-depth look at concussions in high school sports Friday at 10 p.m. They will be taking viewer questions on the topic, so please visit Varsity Zone on 3TV on Facebook to ask.