The WVSSAC Sports Medicine Committee recently met to continue discussing health- and safety-related issues for student-athletes in member high and middle schools.

According to a WVSSAC press release, the committee consisting of medical doctors, certified athletic trainers, physical therapists and chiropractors meets several times each year. The WVSSAC has been a national leader in developing the return-to-play protocol for athletes who have been identified with signs or symptoms of a concussion.

The committee has turned its attention to developing a template for schools to review their emergency action plans during interscholastic activities. This emergency action plan would include sudden cardiac arrest awareness and the use of AEDs.

Dr. Greg Elkins of Hamlin, a member of the National Federation of High School State Associations Sports Medicine Advisory Committee as well as the WVSSAC Sports Medicine Committee, said, “The development and implementation of emergency action plans (EAPs) for interscholastic practices and games is extremely important for us in West Virginia where very few schools have athletic trainers for all sports. Understanding and practicing what to do in an emergency can decrease the time before treatment is started which has been proven to save lives.”

“We need to provide the leadership to ensure that our student-athletes and fans attending the games are as safe as possible,” said WVSSAC executive director Gary Ray. “This committee is invaluable in researching and recommending the necessary direction to provide a safe environment.

“Any activity has inherent risks but with the assistance of these medical professionals we hope to minimize that risk.”

Recently the sports medicine committee developed guidelines for heat and hydration and reviewed the annual physical exam forms to include information to parents about concussions. The committee is studying the impact of the new program implemented by U.S.A. Youth Football, “Heads Up Football,” which hopes to change coaching techniques and player and parent attitudes towards football safety at all youth levels.

Dr. Dan Martin, professor of exercise science and athletic training at West Virginia Wesleyan College, annually collects data from member schools to examine the nature and severity of interscholastic related injuries during competition and practice.  This information helps the committee to discuss potential high risk behaviors and recommend changes to the rules governing sports activities.

“This may well be the most important committee that serves the WVSSAC,” said Ray. “Without their leadership and dedication, we could not be able to provide coaches, officials, school administrators, athletes and parents the most updated information regarding sports-related health and safety issues.”

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