Concussion Concerns

May 29, 2012

The MHSAA has been concerned for many years with the need for heightened awareness of concussions.  For example:  

  • In 2000 the laminated card “Head Injury Guide for Trainers and Coaches,” provided by St. Johns Health Systems, was distributed in quantities to every MHSAA member school.
  • The following fall, 20,000 laminated “Management of Concussions in Sports” cards, a joint project of the American Academy of Neurology and the Brain Injury Association of Michigan, were distributed to schools.
  • In the summer of 2005 the video “Concussions and Second Impact Syndrome” was provided at no cost to every MHSAA member high school.
  • In the fall of 2007 the DVD “Sports Head Injury,” a project of Henry Ford Health Systems, was provided to every MHSAA member junior high/middle school and high school.

All of this and many other efforts have been provided at no cost to our member schools, and continue to be provided at no cost to these cash-strapped institutions.

In 2010, the MHSAA adopted strong return-to-play protocols for students with concussions and suspected of being concussed.  Under our rule, any athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion must be removed from competition.  Furthermore, our rule clearly states that if a student is removed from play due to a suspected concussion, that student cannot return to play that day and must be cleared in writing by an MD or DO prior to returning on any later day.  And the rule has a strong enforcement mechanism:  if a school allows a concussed student to return to play without the written authorization of an MD or DO, that is the same as playing an ineligible athlete and results in forfeiture of the contest.    

The MHSAA’s website posts training tools for athletes, parents and coaches, including those of the Centers for Disease Control, and three free online courses – one from CDC, one from the National Federation of State High School Associations and the third from Michigan NeuroSport at the University of Michigan.  The “Parent’s Guide to Concussion in Sports” has been widely distributed to school administrators, coaches, students and parents.

During this school year alone, nearly 20,000 high school coaches and officials will complete a rules meeting requirement that, beyond basic playing rules, is dominated by information regarding head trauma prevention, recognition and after care.  

We welcome help in this effort from professional sports organizations.  However, if professional sport leagues want to make a meaningful contribution to this topic in this state and other states, they must do more to change the culture of their programs.  All of our collective efforts on this topic are undermined when a professional player gets his “bell rung” in a nationally-televised game and returns later to that game, or is carried off the field or court one day and returns to play the next.  These nationally-televised tragedies-in-waiting may send the message to our youngest athletes and their parents and coaches that concussions are not serious.

This is not merely a football issue.  For us, it’s also an issue for soccer, ice hockey, wrestling, lacrosse and almost every sport we serve.  Furthermore, this issue is but one of several compelling health and safety issues in school sports that deserve our attention and must receive it every year to help local schools whose resources have been so severely reduced in recent years.  

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.