Health & Safety: A Look Back, Gallop Ahead

August 7, 2015

By Jack Roberts
MHSAA executive director

We are just completing year six of eight during which we have been addressing the four important health and safety issues that, for ease of conversation, we call the “Four Hs.”

During the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, our focus was on Health Histories. We made enhancements in the pre-participation physical examination form, stressing the student’s health history, which we believe was and is the essential first step to participant health and safety.

During the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, our focus was on Heads. We were an early adopter of removal-from-play and return-to-play protocols, and our preseason rules/risk management meetings for coaches included information on concussion prevention, recognition and aftercare.

Without leaving that behind, during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, our focus was on Heat – acclimatization. We adopted a policy to manage heat and humidity – it is recommended for regular season and it’s a requirement for MHSAA tournaments. The rules/risk management meetings for coaches during these years focused on heat and humidity management.

At the mid-point of this two-year period, the MHSAA adopted policies to enhance acclimatization at early season practices and to reduce head contact at football practices all season long.

Without leaving any of the three previous health and safety “H’s” behind, during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, our focus will be on Hearts – sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death.

Coinciding with this emphasis is the requirement that all high school level, varsity level head coaches be CPR certified starting this fall. Our emphasis will be on AEDs and emergency action plans – having them and rehearsing them.

On Feb. 10, bills were introduced into both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, together called the “Safe Play Act (see below),” which addressed three of the four health and safety “H’s” just described: Heat, Hearts and Heads.

For each of these topics, the federal legislation would mandate that the director of the Centers for Disease Control develop educational material and that each state disseminate that material.

For the heat and humidity management topic, the legislation states that schools will be required to adopt policies very much like the “MHSAA Model Policy to Manage Heat and Humidity” which the MHSAA adopted in March of 2013.

For both the heart and heat topics, schools will be required to have and to practice emergency action plans like we have been promoting in the past and distributed to schools this summer.

For the head section, the legislation would amend Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments and eliminate federal funding to states and schools which fail to educate their constituents or fail to support students who are recovering from concussions. This support would require multi-disciplinary concussion management teams that would include medical personnel, parents and others to provide academic accommodations for students recovering from concussions that are similar to the accommodations that are already required of schools for students with disabilities or handicaps.

This legislation would require return-to-play protocols similar to what we have in Michigan, and the legislation would also require reporting and recordkeeping that is beyond what occurs in most places.

This proposed federal legislation demonstrates two things. First, that we have been on target in Michigan with our four Hs – it’s like they read our playbook of priorities before drafting this federal legislation.

This proposed federal legislation also demonstrates that we still have some work to do.

And what will the following two years – 2017-18 and 2018-19 – bring? Here are some aspirations – some predictions, but not quite promises – of where we will be.

First, we will have circled back to the first “H” – Health Histories – and be well on our way to universal use of paperless pre-participation physical examination forms and records.

Second, we will have made the immediate reporting and permanent recordkeeping of all head injury events routine business in Michigan school sports, for both practices and contests, in all sports and at all levels.

Third, we will have added objectivity and backbone to removal from play decisions for suspected concussions at both practices and events where medical personnel are not present; and we could be a part of pioneering “telemedicine” technology to make trained medical personnel available at every venue for every sport where it is missing today.

Fourth, we will have provided a safety net for families who are unable to afford no-deductible, no exclusion concussion care insurance that insists upon and pays for complete recovery from head injury symptoms before return to activity is permitted.

We should be able to do this, and more, without judicial threat or legislative mandate. We won’t wait for others to set the standards or appropriate the funds, but be there to welcome the requirements and resources when they finally arrive.

Safe Play Act — H.R.829
114th Congress (2015-2016) Introduced in House (02/10/2015)

Supporting Athletes, Families and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act or the SAFE PLAY Act

Amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop public education and awareness materials and resources concerning cardiac health, including:

  • information to increase education and awareness of high risk cardiac conditions and genetic heart rhythm abnormalities that may cause sudden cardiac arrest in children, adolescents, and young adults;
  • sudden cardiac arrest and cardiomyopathy risk assessment worksheets to increase awareness of warning signs of, and increase the likelihood of early detection and treatment of, life-threatening cardiac conditions;
  • training materials for emergency interventions and use of life-saving emergency equipment; and
  • recommendations for how schools, childcare centers, and local youth athletic organizations can develop and implement cardiac emergency response plans.

Requires the CDC to: (1) provide for dissemination of such information to school personnel, coaches, and families; and (2) develop data collection methods to determine the degree to which such persons have an understanding of cardiac issues.

Directs the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to enable eligible local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools served by such LEAs to purchase AEDs and implement nationally recognized CPR and AED training courses.

Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require a state, as a condition of receiving funds under such Act, to certify that it requires: (1) LEAs to implement a standard plan for concussion safety and management for public schools; (2) public schools to post information on the symptoms of, the risks posed by, and the actions a student should take in response to, a concussion; (3) public school personnel who suspect a student has sustained a concussion in a school-sponsored activity to notify the parents and prohibit the student from participating in such activity until they receive a written release from a health care professional; and (4) a public school's concussion management team to ensure that a student who has sustained a concussion is receiving appropriate academic supports.

Directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop public education and awareness materials and resources to be disseminated to schools regarding risks from exposure to excessive heat and humidity and recommendations for how to avoid heat-related illness. Requires public schools to develop excessive heat action plans for school-sponsored athletic activities.

Requires the CDC to develop guidelines for the development of emergency action plans for youth athletics.

Authorizes the Food and Drug Administration to develop information about the ingredients used in energy drinks and their potential side effects, and recommend guidelines for the safe use of such drinks by youth, for dissemination to public schools.

Requires the CDC to: (1) expand, intensify, and coordinate its activities regarding cardiac conditions, concussions, and heat-related illnesses among youth athletes; and (2) report on fatalities and catastrophic injuries among youths participating in athletic activities.

2023 Forsythe Award Celebrates Leinaar's 40 Years Dedicated to School Sports

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 8, 2023

Few people in Michigan have had a longer-lasting influence on the rules and policies of educational athletics than Frankfort’s Karen Leinaar, who has served in several roles locally, statewide and nationally over more than 40 years contributing to the school sports community.

Thank you, Bill Baker.

The longtime teacher, coach, principal and superintendent during a career that stretched across multiple schools – including Leinaar’s growing up, Delton Kellogg – made an impression on the standout multi-sport athlete before she graduated from high school in 1977. Baker’s philosophy and work led Leinaar to study education at Michigan State University and then brought her back as Delton’s athletic director to begin four decades of making the same impact on children in her hometown and eventually in hometowns all over Michigan and beyond.

Baker died in 2009, but not before continuing to mentor Leinaar through many good times and tough ones.

“The man had two daughters that I grew up with, his wife was a teacher, and he demonstrated to all of us – he never missed an event – that we were important to him. That even though we weren’t his kids, we were his kids and athletics was a way to help kids become better people – and for some kids it was the only thing that they had positive in their life,” Leinaar said. “And he made it known just to that individual kid how important their participation was and their involvement, and how that helped them become the person that they were.

“That to me was such an example of how to help people be good people, that I just took that role on.”

It’s a role in which she continues to serve. Leinaar began her career as an athletic administrator in 1982, and as the interim athletic director currently at Frankfort High School is serving her fifth district in that position. Since June 2019, she also has served as executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional organization for school sports administrators in the state with a membership of nearly 700.

Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998. To recognize that longtime and continuing impact, Leinaar has been named the 2023 honoree for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Charles E. Forsythe Award.

The annual award is in its 46th year and named after former MHSAA Executive Director Charles E. Forsythe, the Association's first full-time and longest-serving chief executive. Forsythe Award recipients are selected each year by the MHSAA Representative Council, based on an individual's outstanding contributions to the interscholastic athletics community.

Leinaar also served 22 years on the MHSAA’s Representative Council and a four-year term from 2009-13 on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and just last week was named to the 2023 class of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Hall of Fame.

“It is impossible even to estimate the number of students, coaches, administrators and others who have been affected by the work Karen Leinaar has done to make school sports the best they can be – not only in her communities, but across Michigan and throughout the country,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are few who have equaled her dedication and her support and promotion of the ideals of school-based sports. She has always placed an emphasis on being in the room, on the field or at the arena, actively participating in her leadership roles, and our programs are better for it.”

Leinaar first served as athletic director at Delton Kellogg for nearly 17 years, from March 1982 through October 1998. She spent three years at Gaylord, then 8½ at Benzie Central before taking over at Bear Lake in November 2010 and spending the next decade organizing athletic programs for students in grades 5-12 before retiring in January 2021. She came out of retirement to return to the athletic director’s chair this past fall as interim AD at Frankfort. She has completed nearly four years as MIAAA executive director, moving into that position after previously serving nine years as an assistant to the executive.

Leinaar began her service on the Representative Council in Fall 1999 and completed her last term as a statewide at-large representative at the Fall 2021 meeting.

She has been honored several times for her contributions. She received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998, a Citation from the NFHS in 2000, and she was named MIAAA Athletic Director of the Year in 2001. She received an MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2014 – recognition given for work done generally behind the scenes and with little attention.

“This is the top of the mountain, per se. This one does mean so much,” Leinaar said of the Forsythe Award. “The names that are associated with this over the years, I never thought I’d be put in that group.”

Leinaar remains a continuous source of support at a multitude of MHSAA championship events, and during her time on Council was one of the most frequent representatives handing out trophies and medals to champions and runners-up at Finals events. She began while athletic director at Delton Kellogg hosting the MHSAA Volleyball Finals in Class B and Class C and continues to assist with those championships now played at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

She also hosted Competitive Cheer Finals at Delton Kellogg in 1996 and 1997, Ski Finals while at Gaylord, and many more championship events across the Lower Peninsula. She continues to assist at the MHSAA’s Lower Peninsula Cross Country and Track & Field Finals.

After attending Delton Kellogg High School, Leinaar earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, health and recreation, with a minor in driver education, from MSU in 1982. She completed a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan University in 1994.

Leinaar has been a member for 40 years of both the MIAAA and NIAAA, and has served as chairperson of the MIAAA Annual Conference and awards chairperson for both the state and national bodies. She’s also served as chairperson of the MIAAA’s Exemplary Athletic Program.

Past recipients of the Charles E. Forsythe Award 

1978 - Brick Fowler, Port Huron; Paul Smarks, Warren 
1979 - Earl Messner, Reed City; Howard Beatty, Saginaw 
1980 - Max Carey, Freesoil 
1981 - Steven Sluka, Grand Haven; Samuel Madden, Detroit
1982 - Ernest Buckholz, Mt. Clemens; T. Arthur Treloar, Petoskey
1983 - Leroy Dues, Detroit; Richard Maher, Sturgis 
1984 - William Hart, Marquette; Donald Stamats, Caro
1985 - John Cotton, Farmington; Robert James, Warren 
1986 - William Robinson, Detroit; Irving Soderland, Norway 
1987 - Jack Streidl, Plainwell; Wayne Hellenga, Decatur 
1988 - Jack Johnson, Dearborn; Alan Williams, North Adams
1989 - Walter Bazylewicz, Berkley; Dennis Kiley, Jackson 
1990 - Webster Morrison, Pickford; Herbert Quade, Benton Harbor 
1991 - Clifford Buckmaster, Petoskey; Donald Domke, Northville 
1992 - William Maskill, Kalamazoo; Thomas G. McShannock, Muskegon 
1993 - Roy A. Allen Jr., Detroit; John Duncan, Cedarville 
1994 - Kermit Ambrose, Royal Oak 
1995 - Bob Perry, Lowell 
1996 - Charles H. Jones, Royal Oak 
1997 - Michael A. Foster, Richland; Robert G. Grimes, Battle Creek 
1998 - Lofton C. Greene, River Rouge; Joseph J. Todey, Essexville 
1999 - Bernie Larson, Battle Creek 
2000 - Blake Hagman, Kalamazoo; Jerry Cvengros, Escanaba 
2001 - Norm Johnson, Bangor; George Lovich, Canton 
2002 - John Fundukian, Novi 
2003 - Ken Semelsberger, Port Huron
2004 - Marco Marcet, Frankenmuth
2005 - Jim Feldkamp, Troy
2006 - Dan McShannock, Midland; Dail Prucka, Monroe
2007 - Keith Eldred, Williamston; Tom Hickman, Spring Lake
2008 - Jamie Gent, Haslett; William Newkirk, Sanford Meridian
2009 - Paul Ellinger, Cheboygan
2010 - Rudy Godefroidt, Hemlock; Mike Boyd, Waterford
2011 - Eric C. Federico, Trenton
2012 - Bill Mick, Midland
2013 - Jim Gilmore, Tecumseh; Dave Hutton, Grandville
2014 - Dan Flynn, Escanaba

2015 - Hugh Matson, Saginaw
2016 - Gary Hice, Petoskey; Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2017 - Chuck Nurek, Rochester Hills
2018 - Gary Ellis, Allegan
2019 - Jim Derocher, Negaunee; Fredrick J. Smith, Stevensville
2020 - Michael Garvey, Lawton
2021 - Leroy Hackley Jr., Byron Center; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2022 - Bruce Horsch, Houghton

PHOTOS (Top) Karen Leinaar, left, awards the 2022 Division 4 volleyball finalist trophy to Indian River Inland Lakes coach Nicole Moore. (Middle) Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998.