DULUTH — The old saying of “getting your bell rung” doesn’t take on the same meaning as it did just a few years and hopefully treatment for such incidents will come with more care and education now.
A step in that direction took place Saturday as nearly 600 coaches and certified athletic trainers made their way to the Gwinnett Center to attend the Gwinnett Football League’s Trainers Clinic.
Now in its seventh year being sponsored by Gwinnett Medical Center, the GFL’s clinic has annually brought in certified athletic trainers from youth athletic associations from around the county.
But head coaches and a large number of assistant coaches joined ATCs at Saturday’s clinic as experts from GMC and other medical facilities made presentations on safety, prevention and recognition of injuries and illnesses in football.
“We’ve been partnering up with Gwinnett Medical Center for the past seven years and it helps because they’re right here in our backyard,” said GFL president Erik Richards. “They pour their heart and soul into this clinic and now we’ve included coaches with the trainers to help in recognizing when an injury does occur.
“Now we have more information on concussions this year, even though we’ve already been doing ImPACT testing in the GFL and try to stay ahead of the curve due to the high level of football that is played here.”
This year’s clinic focused on many of the usual items like heat-related illnesses, but also featured information on House Bill 284 that was passed early this year in the Georgia General Assembly.
HB 284 — also known as the Return to Play Act — addresses policies on diagnosing head injuries and returning to play following a concussion.
It will require public recreation leagues to provide information to parents on the nature and risk of concussion and head injury.
Any young athlete who exhibits signs of a concussion must be removed from play and evaluated by a health care provider.
If he or she sustains a concussion, a health care provider must provide medical clearance before the individual can return to play.
So the GFL, in conjunction with GMC, brought in specialists such as Dr. Gary Levengood, chair of the GMC sports medicine committee and Sports Medicine South orthopaedic surgeon.
“The concussion piece is important and the newest with the most focus on it, but it’s all important when it comes to the health and safety of young kids,” said Levengood. “What we’re trying to do is create a safe environment so the parents have the understanding to get these kids help when they need it.
“That’s what this is all about — to create a safe environment for these kids. If they get hurt or injured early on, they may give up or lose interest even before high school and we don’t want that.”
Attendees also heard from Dr. Yvonne Satterwhite of Resurgens Orthopaedics and Tim Simmons, who is director of the new Concussion Institute at GMC set to open on Aug. 5.
“We have actually been managing concussions at Gwinnett Medical since 2008 and it’s been a county wide program,” said Simmons. “But there’s been an education gap and a knowledge gap. So that’s been the emphasis for getting out and providing a service to the community. GMC (Duluth) has been the sports medicine home and we’ve been honored to come to this GFL event for seven years with more information on concussions this year.”
Coaches and ATCs were also presented information by Dr. Stephen Fisher of Georgia Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery at The Longstreet Clinic.
Dr. Fisher stressed the importance of recognizing heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and heat syncope.
Coaches and trainers also worked in breakout sessions on equipment fitting, strength and conditioning, taping, nutrition and working with high-risk situations such as sickle cell, asthma and allergies — plenty to keep everyone busy and thinking beyond just the actual practices and games.
“It’s important to take care of your kids and know what to do when emergencies do occur,” said Mill Creek Athletic Association coach Rod Dollar. “We’re going to do the ImPACT study again and our staff took the National Federation of State High School Associations concussion courses. There are new things every year that we need to keep up with and we’re fortunate to have such great resources through our high school program.”