News

Steve's Letter about Shipley's Concussion Program

Steven S. Piltch
August 4, 2014

Dear Shipley Families:
When I wrote to you last spring about our decision to eliminate heading in our Middle School Soccer Program, I had no idea that our decision would result in such interesting and productive media coverage. As many of you in the community know, this decision was the latest in our efforts to protect the safety of our students and deal with the challenges of the impact of concussions in our children's lives. At the same time, we are committed to improving the skill levels of our players by ensuring that they learn the proper techniques and are ready for success as Upper School soccer players. In addition to the no heading policy, we previously instituted baseline testing procedures for all of our Upper School students, and adopted a very stringent return to play and academic work protocol (for those students who had suffered a concussion).

Since school ended in June, we have been exploring additional ways to address this issue, which has resulted in several important developments. First, we have decided to implement the use of Triax impact sensors by our Upper School athletes playing contact sports beginning this fall. Under the leadership of our Athletic Director our athletes will be equipped with the sensors which will help identify significant impacts to the head, beginning on August 18 with the start of pre-season.

As we introduce the sensors, I am very pleased to report that we will be partnering with the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF is a non-profit organization dedicated to solving the sports concussion crisis through education, policy, and research). We will be working together on the education of our students, coaches, and families around the use of the sensors and we will be part of their Hit Count program. Hit Count tracks every impact that exceeds 20g, and provides a count for each player and team.

While hits of 20g are unlikely to cause concussion, research has shown that repetitive smaller hits, or subconcussive impacts, can result in changes in brain structure and function.  We believe this is an investment in the safety of our kids. We will be able to track what happens with our student athletes on the field during practice and games. It will also help our coaches to identify ways they can change behavior to reduce the opportunity for concussive or subconcussive events.

As part of our partnership with SLI, we participated on a panel at SLI’s Hit Count Conference earlier this month (you can view the discussion online). And Chris Nowinski, the co-founder and Executive Director of CLF will be leading an educational program with our Upper School student athletes and coaches on Thursday, August 28; you will be hearing more from Mark on the plans for that day.  In addition, we will be working with CLF to evaluate the data gathered by the sensors and track individual athletes and teams over time.  SLI and Shipley personnel will meet weekly to review the Hit Count data and look for opportunities to teach better techniques and modify exposure.

While it is important to improve the diagnosis of concussion, our ultimate goal is to reduce and prevent concussions. We believe the analysis of the Hit Count data will be an important step in reaching that goal. To that end, in addition to partnering with CLF, we will be working with the University of Delaware and Children’s Hospital to see how the data can be used to improve the safety of our children.

As you can imagine, I am very proud of the role Shipley will play in this important work.  I am extremely grateful to Chris Nowinski, Dr. Tom Drake (a Shipley parent and specialist in pediatric rehabilitation), Dr. Robert Cantu (CLF medical director and concussion expert), and Jaclyn Caccese and Dr. Tom Kaminski at the University of Delaware for their support and partnership. (Of course, I would be remiss not to also thank Mark Duncan for his tremendous leadership on our behalf and all of our coaches for their commitment to and involvement in this project.)

Given the pace of activity on this topic this summer, I expect there will be much more to report in the future. I look forward to sharing more information with you. In the meantime, we have created a page on our website dedicated to our Concussion Reduction/Awareness/Prevention Program where you can find links to the latest policies, articles, and developments.  Thank you for your ongoing support of Shipley and our efforts to enhance the safety and health of our kids.

Warmest regards,

Steven S. Piltch
Head of School
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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.