OCSTA director of legislative and political affairs Bob Murray pushes government to respect student’s recovery from head injuries Photo courtesy Sharon McMillian

OCSTA hard hitting on sports head injuries

By 
  • March 27, 2012

TORONTO - Students who suffer concussions should not only be removed from sports but also be excused from class until they heal, according to the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA).

Bob Murray, the OCSTA director of legislative and political affairs, is urging the Ontario government to include full curriculum exemption into Bill 39. The bill proposes that school boards be required to develop policies to deal with students who suffer brain trauma from concussions.

“You need to be removed from the classroom to let your brain get what is referred to as cognitive rest,” said Murray. “Even the regular classroom can have profound effects on the brain if a person hasn’t received the rest they need. They should be removed from all curriculum in order to properly heal the head injury.” 

The bill, introduced earlier this year, states students who’ve sustained a head injury are to be removed from intramural sports, inter-school athletics as well as the health and physical education curriculum. In addition it mandates boards to develop guidelines for the distribution of accurate information about the prevention, treatment and effects associated with concussions.

Murray says Bill 39 is a step in the right direction, but should go further.

“For the most part Bill 39 is promoting an educational campaign for students, parents and board coaches to make sure that they are aware of not only the effects of head injuries but also some of the protocols that have to be employed,” Murray said. “It’s a group effort, it’s a collective, cultural change that is needed.”

Murray coached football at Dennis Morris Catholic High School in St. Catharines, Ont., before concussion awareness became widespread. He admits he didn’t understand the dangers of playing a concussed student.

“I have had players under my tutelage who have suffered concussions,” he said. “Before I knew enough about concussion I was urging them to get back on the field. I didn’t quite understand why the athletic trainer standing beside me was telling me it wasn’t an option. If the player said they were good to go then I would trust that player’s judgment, and it was a mistake.”

Murray now believes it should not be up to the student to make the call. Bill 39 would put that decision into the hands of adults who have been taught about the dangers of concussions.

Murray said the number of concussions he recognized as a coach were “few and far between,” but there may have been more that went unnoticed. According to the Sports Concussion Institute, an American treatment and research facility, football players face a 75 per cent chance of receiving some degree of a concussion — the highest of all sports — and fewer than 10 per cent of sport-related concussions involve loss of consciousness.

“Education is going to be the greatest tool because we need to first of all understand what a concussion is (and) the effects of a concussion for the span of their life time,” said Murray. “What is essential is that people wake up to the issue that these concussions are happening. This is what I think the bill does very well.”

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