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Norwalk Committee Adopts Concussion Protocols To Protect Youth In Sports

Katherine Snedaker,left,with the chief medical officer of the soccer organization FIFA,Professor Dr. Jiri Dvorak,  has helped Norwalk Recreation and Parks devise guidelines on recognizing possible head injuries at events at city facilities.
Katherine Snedaker,left,with the chief medical officer of the soccer organization FIFA,Professor Dr. Jiri Dvorak, has helped Norwalk Recreation and Parks devise guidelines on recognizing possible head injuries at events at city facilities. Photo Credit: Contributed

NORWALK, Conn. --  The Norwalk Recreation and Parks Committee approved a proposal for concussion guidelines for all youth sports that use city fields and properties on Wednesday, making it the first in the state to adopt a citywide concussion program.

The proposal will be voted on at a Norwalk Common Council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m.

“There are inherent risks in sports and life in general,’’ said Norwalk’s Katherine Snedaker, executive director of PinkConcussions.com , who has been pushing for the guidelines for two years. “Our mission with this program is to help youth sports leagues update their policies with best practices, increasing safety for our kids while lowering personal liability for our coaches and city.”

The proposal, "Concussion Aware and Prepared Program", calls for the education of coaches, parents and athletes with free resources from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the removal of injured athletes from play; permission to return to play; and a report submitted to Recreation and Parks after each season of any concussion during a practice, game or activity.

The guidelines mirror most of the legislation in the Connecticut Concussion Law 2010, which was updated last year. The state law passed last year covers students who participate in middle and high school-based teams.

Snedaker said 75 students in Norwalk public schools have reported concussions so far this year, according to reports from school nurses. Nineteen of them, or 25 percent, were from non-school sports not covered by the state law.

There is a current bill in Hartford to address this loophole but there is no teeth at the state level to enforce youth sports compliance. Public school coaches have a required four-hour training on concussions or they could have their coach’s license revoked.

Snedaker credited Mike Moccaie, Norwalk’s director of Recreation and Parks, for pushing for the guidelines.

“Since the city provides the fields for play we are a natural fit to only award use to those that have educated their parents and provide trained coaches,” Moccaie said.

Diane Beltz-Jacobson, assistant corporation counsel from the City of Norwalk, joined Moccaie and Snedarker in providing the legal advice.

Jack Couch, president of Norwalk Lacrosse Association, and Bob Fosina, president of Norwalk Junior Soccer Association, are supportive of the new policy and said it would be an asset to their programs.

Snedaker has been pushing for more concussion awareness for the past six years. Two of her sons have suffered multiple concussions. Snedaker advises sports teams, schools, and medical providers as well as parents and athletes. She has appeared on ESPN’s "Outside the Lines," NBC Connecticut, Sports Illustrated Online, and in media/radio programs across North America and Europe.

“Hopefully the this program will be a model for the rest of state,’’ she said. “Parents will now know their young children will have some of the same protections that benefit public middle and high school athletes.”

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