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Tackling Concussions Head-On: Schools To Adopt New Regulations To Better Protect Student Athletes

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Major changes are coming to high school sports in Maryland as education leaders aim to curb concussions in sports.

Monique Griego has more on what players can expect.

Even the NFL has taken notice of the damaging effects of concussions. Now state public schools’ athletic leaders are doing their part to keep students safe while also changing an old mindset.

High school sports are full of hard hits.

“Concussions are prevalent in high school sports. Not just in football, but in all sports,” said Howard High School varsity football coach Bruce Strunk.

Strunk says because the dangers of repeat hits are more well known, the “macho mindset” of the game is changing.

“Before, it was `Toughen up, get back on the field’ but we know what the damage can do,” Strunk said.

That potential for brain damage led the Maryland State Board of Education to adopt new and more stringent regulations.

“Everybody realizes the dangers. Everybody realizes the severe effects it can have,” said Ned Sparks, Maryland State Department of Education.

The changes include continuous training for coaches, academic help after an injury and reducing the exposure to head trauma. For collision sports like football, that means cutting down the number of days players practice heavy hitting. But even contact sports are getting looked at.

Girls’ soccer has one of the highest rates of concussions.

“Obviously two players can collide, obviously heading the ball,” Sparks said.

The NFL also made changes after reports of higher rates of brain damage in players.

Retired Raven Matt Birk told WJZ he plans to donate his brain to research to study the long-term effects of repeated concussions.

“What concerns me is the repeated trauma,” Birk said. “I’ve had three concussions.”

State leaders are hoping to implement some of these changes in the fall.

Doctors say even light concussions, if untreated, can cause severe harm to the brain like memory loss, major depression and even Alzheimer’s later in life.

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