Beginning this upcoming athletic season, baseline concussion testing will no longer be an eligibility requirement for participating in extracurricular athletics.
For the past five years, the Howard County Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) has collaborated closely with leading neuropsychologists from around the world. Each year, Dr. Gerald Gioia has represented the SMAC at a conference in Berlin, Germany to discuss the latest research of sports concussions. In 2011, it was the recommendation of this committee to institute concussion baseline testing to student-athletes which was implemented in HCPSS for the 2012-13 school year.
This year, the research acquired over the past five years led Dr. Gioia and the committee to recommend that widespread baseline testing no longer be used with adolescents due to questions about reliability and insufficient evidence of diagnostic value. This change in no way alters the thorough assessment and care provided to every child displaying symptoms of head trauma. The decision to make this change was based on the SMAC’s recommendations and has no financial impact. The safety of children will always be at the forefront of HCPSS staff and the members of the committee.
Based on this recommendation, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) will no longer require baseline testing as an eligibility requirement for participating in extracurricular athletics. However, baseline testing will continue to be available to all students and will be used for students that have suffered a concussion in the past. Most importantly, HCPSS will continue to provide concussion education to students, parents, coaches, and athletic trainers; diagnostic assessments with direct collaboration with the primary care doctors of our student-athletes; and thorough return-to-play protocols that have been used in the past to ensure that we provide the best possible care for our students. Furthermore, athletic trainers will still be in place at all twelve high schools.
I encourage every parent and student-athlete who has questions or concerns regarding the safety protocols in place at your school to have conversations with your coach and Athletics and Activities Manager. I look forward to enjoying the upcoming fall sports season. As our children take the field, it is imperative that every parent and student-athlete knows that health and safety is my top priority and that of your coaches, trainers, and staff.
Michael J. Martirano, Interim Superintendent