New law requires schools to check student athletes for concussions

CARUTHERSVILLE, MO (KAIT) – Coaches across the state of Missouri are reviewing procedures when dealing with student-athletes who may have sustained a concussion. Sunday, a state law went into effect requiring school districts to follow guidelines when handling concussions. According to Caruthersville Head Coach Nathan Morgan, the law will help assist schools and students. Morgan, who has coached football for six years, said he's dealt with multiple concussions and other injuries with his players.

"If you got any doubt at all, you take them out of the game. They're definitely out for next 24 hours. Make sure they see a physician, get cleared before they can play again and usually, on average, it's about one to two weeks," said Morgan.

Morgan knows about concussions from experience. Last season, he held out one of his star players for more than three weeks.

"He wasn't unconscious. He didn't get nauseated. Didn't vomit or anything like that. I think he had a little bit of trouble sleeping the night after," said Morgan.

Morgan said Elbie Fonda, a senior running back for the Tigers, didn't let coaches know he was feeling different after a helmet to helmet hit. After Fonda scored a touchdown, he told a coach about his head.

"I think it was a dive going up the middle. We hit helmet to helmet. That's about all I remember," said Fonda. "I didn't really know until I went to the sideline. I was still in the game."

Morgan said Fonda was diagnosed with a stage two concussion.

"I got to the hospital later on, and I kind of started remembering a little bit," said Fonda. "I didn't really feel it until I got to the sidelines. Like everything just changed, like started to get a little spinney, like it just kind of came from day to night time. I didn't know who scored."

"They gave him a two week period before the first check up. He went to the check up and then we had a gradual progression to exercise. We had to really check on him that first jog he had," said Morgan. "You get a pretty descent concussion. That first jog can be pretty rough, but he was okay that week of game 5. We gradually worked him into practice and he got about 10% of the snaps against New Madrid."

Morgan said he agreed with the state law requiring school districts to adapt procedures to deal with concussions; however, Morgan said the law could create a negative side effect.

"It allows us to have a really nice set procedure on how to handle it and we don't run into any issues. You do this and this and take care of it that way," said Morgan. "You might have kids run into a situation where they know or got an idea that they might have a concussion, and then they just don't let anybody know."

Morgan also said it's not known how concussion injuries impact younger athletes. He said some of his players are as young as 14-years old.

"With their development, a 14-year old kid getting a concussion, you really got to make sure they're not going to be effected later on," said Morgan. "They're still growing. They're still young. You talk about us being a class two school, so there's a lot of times we got to play a young 14, 15-year old freshman and they can take a pretty good beating. You want to take care of them."

Morgan said it's his job to ensure players use proper tackling techniques to avoid injury.

"If they feel a little odd, a little off, it's just going back to what they're trained all the way back to youth league, keep your head up, see what you hit. All those type of rules we try to get them. You know, they get into bad habits. We got to coach them out of bad habits but for the most part, it's the same ole same ole as far as making sure they're taught the right way," said Morgan.

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