Setting boundaries: Parks & Rec aims to define concussion policy
Hoping to avoid the trauma of confusion — and stay a step ahead of state legislation — the Parks and Recreation Department is working to define a clear concussion-management policy for Westport’s public athletic facilities.
Karen Puskas, the department’s program manager, appeared last week before the Parks and Recreation Commission to present a draft of a statement that could be adopted as part of its policy for use of athletic facilities for youth sports.
The commission, however, sent her back to the drawing board to provide more details to clarify expectations and liability boundaries.
“My overall question is, if we’re going to propose this thing, how can this be audited?” said Charles Haberstroh, the commission chairman. “How are we going to show that this has been complied with? … What I’m looking for is an audit trail.”
Puskas explained that there is no standard procedure for dealing with possible concussion injuries. Each youth group, she said, follows the standards set by one of several professional groups. Consequently, he said the local guidelines as proposed left leeway.
“It’s a broad policy, but … I think that’s where we leave it up to the youth sports organizations to pick up whatever concussion-management group they want to go through,” she said.
“I think we’re trying to define liability here,” Haberstroh said, commending Puskas on the draft policy as a starting point.
During the meeting, Commissioner Steve Axthelm discussed his family’s experience when his daughter was injured on the playing field with what was later identified as a concussion.
“My daughter was the poster child for the trainer not getting it right,” he said, noting that the mistake was almost catastrophic. He said it should be clear that a qualified physician should be making the judgments about injuries, and not just a trainer.
John Polayes, the only member of the public to comment on the issue, agreed. “You don’t mess with concussions unless a doctor certifies you … If you set a standard representing the town, that should be it. They have to be cleared by a doctor … It’s got to be a doctor.”
Polayes said he was concerned that a unified policy may not be adopted.
Puskas said the intention of the policy, which as yet isn’t a state requirement but is being discussed in Hartford, is to allow the different youth sports organizations to set their own guidelines.
“This is very general,” she said. “It’s not specific. It gives a little bit of leeway with the youth sports providers in town and how they do things … The general statement we’re taking is that we have to have some kind of concussion awareness.”
Axthelm said, however, it created more of a burden on various sports groups to create their own guidelines. “It’s terribly onerous to the youth sports providers to say, ‘Okay, it’s up to you to come up with a policy.’ ”
The commission asked Puskas to revise her draft policy and return in the next month or two with a more specific document.