, Newburyport, MA

December 23, 2013

Pentucket focuses on head injury prevention


---- — WEST NEWBURY — Ensuring that head injuries are properly identified and treated before a student resumes athletic activities is the chief goal of the Pentucket High School’s Head Injury Policy.

At a Pentucket school board policy subcommittee meeting earlier this month, athletic director Dan Thornton explained the proactive approach his coaches are taking when it comes to managing the risk of head injuries. Coaches, parents and students all receive annual training in head injury education.

Coaches are instructed to immediately remove a student from play or practice if they know of or suspect a head injury has occurred. The certified athletic trainer or school nurse will be notified and will follow up with the student’s parents. Coaches or trainers stay with the athlete until the parents arrive. Students suspected of having a head injury are never allowed to drive themselves home or get a ride from a friend or another teammate.

“We say you are going with your mom or dad — or you are going in the ambulance,” Thornton said.

Following a diagnosed concussion by a health care provider, the student must submit to a post-injury test within 72 hours of the occurrence and be symptom free for 10 days before being allowed back on the playing arena.

All athletes must submit to baseline brain testing every two years. The computerized testing program involves a series of memory recognition questions, Thornton said. If a student becomes concussed during the season, he or she must be retested before resuming the sport.

Thornton said the testing provides the trainer with an invaluable baseline to work from when assessing potential health concerns in the future. He recalled a time last fall when a former Pentucket student athlete received a concussion while playing sports as a freshman at college. When the college trainer learned of Pentucket’s baseline testing policy, he immediately called Pentucket’s trainer to get information on the student’s results.

“I’d put our policy up against anybody’s,” Thornton said.

In other business, the subcommittee briefly discussed the district’s policy on bullying. Superintendent Jeff Mulqueen said that as part of a more comprehensive policy with language mandated by the state, the district has an 800 number and a drop box for students who wish to report bullying anonymously. He planned to add discussion on the bullying and the anti-discrimination policies to the agenda for the school board’s next meeting.

Earlier in the evening a subcommittee on Teaching, Learning and Accountability received a brief update from high school Principal Jon Seymour regarding the recent report by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges after its four-day visit to the district back in April.

Although the results of the review were not made public at the time, Seymour acknowledged some frustration that the NEASC team’s newly adopted set of standards did not easily apply to how things are done at Pentucket. For example, the NEASC reviewers didn’t seem to understand that what their rubric referred to as “21st Century Skill Development,” Pentucket calls its “Habits of Learning.”

“They didn’t quite get it,” he told the subcommittee.

Mulqueen said that other districts share Seymour’s frustrations with NEASC and superintendents are beginning to question whether it is “really the organization to give us the kind of feedback we need.”

The financial and human resources spent to prepare for a NEASC visit are tremendous, the administrators agreed.

As for the report from this visit, Mulqueen appeared non-plussed.

“Whatever it is, whatever comes down the pike, we’ll just address it and keep moving forward,” he said.