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New U46 concussion policy’s focus goes beyond student athletes

As a new school year approaches, District U46 intends to alter the way in which they oversee student progress after incurring a concussion on or off the field.

At a recent meeting, officials adopted a concussion policy update, which broadens the language of school protocols. The change in policy intends to maximize the potential of all students who incur concussions, whether it occurs at home, on the playground or during a weekend sporting event.

In response to the passing of Public Act 099-0254, the board appointed members of school staff to a newly formed concussion oversight team.

Among those named to the District U46 concussion oversight team were health services supervisor Jeffrey Judge, Elgin High School nurse Patricia Kenyon and Streamwood High School athletic director Mark Orszula.

Judge said the district is making a conscious effort in adopting the new policy.

“I think that it’s important it’s a district-wide wide policy,” he said. “We’re working at each school level. Having this understanding is beneficial to students at every level.”

In May, school officials started examining various models for treating concussions. Around that time, Judge said they narrowed in on notable efforts made by the Illinois High School Association, the Center for Disease and Control and Lurie Children’s Hospital.

Much like other school districts across the state, U46 aims to provide a learning environment that is conducive for all of its students, Judge said. The new policy will cover grounds in which the former act addressed and expand.

According to the Center for Disease and Control, an estimated 1.6 million concussions occur in sports and recreational activities annually.

Judge said the Return to Learn component, which will accompany the existing Return to Play protocol, is one of the major differences ascribed in the policy that is hoped to make a difference.

“The previous act focused on athletics,” he said. “This new model focuses on concussions at every age.”

The new policy update calls for a student to undergo four phases of recovery, including complete rest, return to school for half-day attendance for a period of time, full-day school attendance, and full academic and physical/athletic activity participation.

The former policy, which only addressed the Return to Play protocol, intends to support a student in recovery through five stages consisting of light aerobic activity, increased aerobic activity, non-contact activity related to specific sport/skill, full-contact activity, and return to completion.

Judge said any new strategies U46 can employ to assist students in returning to learn and play is the ultimate goal.

He said if students are in need of additional assistance, accommodations are available to them.

The extent to which communication is open between a student’s physician and school staff is key, Judge added.

“We want to make sure they receive all the benefits like any athlete would,” he said.

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