New safeguards in place for Michigan high school players in effort to protect them from concussions

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- From high school age kids to the pros, concussions are always concern when it comes to contact sports like football.

If it seems like you are hearing more and more about concussions, that's because experts want everyone to be aware of how dangerous concussions truly are.

That's why the Michigan High School Athletic Association adopted new rules this year requiring both parents and student athletes to sign a "return to activity" form before anyone who suffers a concussion returns to the field.

Doctors say it's a shared liability, making sure parents and players stay educated on the dangers and risks of concussions. Concussions can disrupt the way the brain normally functions.

"The sooner we treat it, the sooner kids get better, and if we delay treatment, then treatment outcomes go down," said Dr. Michael Lawrence, section chief of clinical neuropsychology department at Spectrum Health's Concussion Clinic. "So the #1 predictor of recovery with any of these things is education, and that’s why the MHSAA has adopted a new stance and a new form."

Signs of a concussion include, loss of consciousness, headache, and dizziness. Anyone experiencing those should be sitting out a game, because if they play through the symptoms the risk increases that symptoms will last far longer, even years.

"We always say when in doubt, sit out, get evaluated," said Matthew Axtman, a non-operative orthopedics and sports medicine professional at Spectrum Health's Concussion Clinic. "Get taken care of. You’ve got one brain that’s going to function your whole life. We want to make sure that’s taken care of, and then sports comes in secondary to make sure nothing bad is going in your brain."

Parents should know that sleep is important when it comes to concussions. In fact, waking an athlete up during the night can actually make symptoms worse. If you think your child has a concussion, Axtman suggests setting up an appointment at Spectrum's Concussion Clinic, or go to your primary care doctor.

Axtman, Dr. Lawrence, and athletic trainers at Spectrum's Concussion Clinic work to provide a comprehensive holistic and integrated approach to concussion evaluation and treatment for people with head injuries. Staff use computerized testing and balance testing in addition to complete physical exams.

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