New ordinance old news for Emerson

by Claire Nobles / Beacon Staff • September 24, 2014

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Head athletic trainer Mandy Nicoles examines Connor Damiano, a sophomore outfielder on the baseball team.
Head athletic trainer Mandy Nicoles examines Connor Damiano, a sophomore outfielder on the baseball team.

While some schools may be affected by Boston’s new ordinance requiring stricter concussion protocols in NCAA-sanctioned events, the Emerson Athletic Department said it’s at the head of the pack. 

If signed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the ordinance would ban any athlete suspected of a concussion from returning to an NCAA-approved game requires every school to have emergency medical plans.

But according to Patricia Nicol, Emerson’s athletic director, this won’t affect the school’s policies at all.

“It really doesn’t impact us because we already have the protocol in place,” Nicol said. “What this new ordinance says is that we have to have a neurotrauma physician on call, which we already have.”

The athletic department currently requires students who plays impact sports to go through a concussion education program, sign a consent form, and be  tested when they enter the athletic program to establish a baseline for further exams.

Emerson uses the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing, or ImPACT, program to perform baseline and post-injury tests on athletes. According to the ImPACT website, the results from the first time an athlete takes the 25 minute computerized test are compared to results from the same test after a suspected injury. The exam measures memory, reaction times, and symptoms.

Head athletic trainer Mandy Nicoles said the department has always been cautious when it comes to concussions.

“If you’re suspected of a concussion, then you’re done,” Nicoles said. “There’s no question about it.” 

The ordinance would also require every Division I school to have a neurotrauma expert on site for every football, lacrosse, and ice hockey practice or game. Emerson, which is a Division III school and only has a lacrosse team, won’t be affected by this either. 

Junior lacrosse midfielder Conor Judge, who has not had a concussion at Emerson but went through ImPACT testing as a freshman, said he thinks the athletic department’s concussion protocol is effective. 

“It absolutely works,” said the communications studies major. “Especially the department’s testing and the athletic trainers.”

Nicol attributed Emerson’s current concussion protocol to an increased awareness of concussions over the past few years.

“A lot of the time, [concussions have] been unreported,” Nicol said. “I think now there’s more of an understanding of the consequences and the ramifications of not addressing a concussion.” 

Nicoles said the department has seen an increase in concussions since joining the New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference, or NEWMAC, in 2013.

“It is a more physical and bigger conference,” Nicoles said of the NEWMAC. “I think we’re competing harder.”

Judge said he hasn’t had a concussion during his time at Emerson, but has experienced the increased physicality of the NEWMAC.

“We play faster and more competitive teams,” he said. “I separated my shoulder in the first game last season.”

Mayor Walsh is expected to sign the ordinance, which would go into effect immediately.

“It’s really going to benefit some of the smaller colleges,” said Nicoles. “When you put the emphasis on having advanced healthcare as a requirement, it puts people in the mindset of, ‘Oh, this is a huge issue that can’t be ignored anymore.’”