As school kicks off, schools focus on concussion awareness

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Athletes are prepping for a new season, but each year, hundreds of kids in Florida are sidelined with concussions. But new changes are designed keep young athletes on the field.

If you think about concussions, your mind likely thinks, “football.”

“The reality is, that we see concussions in many sports,” said Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program’s Rob Sefcik. “Bicycling is the No. 1 activity related for concussion.”

Concussions can happen anywhere — and in any sport — but it’s football that is driving the conversation. It’s also driving new legislation.

"This year the FHSAA is requiring the athletes to watch a video on concussions,” said Jim Mackie, Trinity Christian athletic trainer. “There is a test of it.”

That is what made the recent announcement at Everbank Field a landmark moment in Duval County. The Jaguars, the NFL, Jacksonville University and local physicians are coming together to mandate to athletic trainers in public schools in the next five years.

Experts believe the number of concussions now — compared to decades ago — may not be dramatically different. What has changed is the number of people reporting them more frequently than ever before.

“Youth need to be safe,” said Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. “We need to know that when they are competing in sports, safety comes first.”

There is a state return-to-play protocol -- it's a five day process - and there’s also a return-to-learn protocol in the classroom for students who have suffered head injuries. If players are less than 90 percent, it’s recommended they don’t play.

Players have to fill out paperwork saying they’ve watched the video.

Helmets and equipment alone can not protect against concussions -- the message is to educate about symptoms because suffering a second concussion — without knowledge of the first one — is when severe problems occur.