Norwalk enforces concussion education for out-of-school athletes

Blake Rubin, Web A&E Editor

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On Feb. 26, Norwalk mayor Harry Rilling passed new concussion guidelines to protect all athletes not affiliated with a school.

The guidelines include training coaches and educating parents on concussions and removing a player from the field if he or she is feeling any signs of a concussion.

The Norwalk Common Council voted 15 to zero to approve these protocols, which will now pertain to almost “6,000 youth athletes and 700 coaches who use municipal fields, gyms, and facilities,” according to Katherine Snedaker, founder of the Sports Concussion Aware and Prepare Program.

Norwalk is the first town in Connecticut to create guidelines of this kind. In 2009, all towns in Connecticut were required by law to enforce head injury training for in-school athletes and their coaches. However, it failed to protect those who did sports outside of school.

Westporters are shocked that Westport hasn’t created a program to educate kids about concussions like Norwalk’s  since so many students participate in out of school travel teams.

“I think it’s about time that Westport students playing sports outside of school should have this knowledge. Susan Kantor, a westport mom, said. “It would make both the children and parents feel more prepared.”

Kantor’s daughter, Belle Kantor ’20, plays on the Westport travel soccer team. According to her mom, Belle knows very little about concussions, except for the consequences of having one, after seeing both her mom and brother suffer. Kantor continued to say that a training session for Belle’s soccer team, like those in Norwalk, could really help teach her daughter the basics.

The Norwalk program was modeled after the Sports Concussion Aware and Prepare Program. According to Snedaker, who founded it, it’s a five-step program which outlines how every member of the organization can be educated about concussions; whether it be before getting hit in the head or after.

Ruth Kissel ’16 also thinks a model like Norwalk’s would be beneficial for Westport to adopt. As a member of the Staples lacrosse team, she understands the advantages of becoming educated about concussions.

Kissel recalled her knowledge on concussions prior to playing for Staples. “When I was younger, I was always confused on whether I had a concussion or not from being hit in the head with a soccer ball,” said Kissel. “But, after watching the concussion movie before lacrosse this past year, I now know the symptoms of a concussion.”

The new concussion guidelines in Norwalk have set a precedent for surrounding towns on how concussions should be dealt with.

“I wish I learned at a young age the steps I needed to follow on determining whether or not I have a concussion,” Matt Chernok ’17 said. “The five- step program should definitely be implemented for youth sports in Westport.”