Dr. Pasqualino Caputo, M.D., talks with school and youth commission coaches at Westport Central School about proper care for athletes who may have suffered a traumatic brain injury, like a concussion. Caputo worked with the Moriah football team this year and is the school’s physician.
Coaches in the Westport community got the chance to learn about head trauma and concussions during a special workshop held by the Westport Health Center’s Dr. Pasqualino Caputo, M.D., Nov. 13.
Caputo, who is certified in sports medicine and has studied brain trauma injuries, has worked with several schools on concussion issues, including the Moriah football program.
“These are a functional problem and not a structural problem,” Caputo told the high school and youth commission coaches that attended the workshop. “You are not going to see anything with a concussion, and that is what makes it hard.”
The workshop was put on to help coaches understand more about what concussions are in the face of new state regulations regarding the treatment of players who may experience head injuries, including the need for any student-athlete suspected of an injury to receive clearance from a physician before they can return to the field or court.
“We have presented a concussion management plan to our board,” athletic director Brad Rascoe said. “The state has told us what our obligations are as a school and we are working on that.”
“There is a really good protocol in place, and there is a set plan of progression,” school nurse Carol Schwoebel said.
“The communication needs to be back and forth between the coaches, the doctors and everyone in the school,” Caputo said. “Working with Moriah was great because I was on the phone with the athletic director and we were able to get kids through the progressions easier because we were working together.”
Westport uses a computer program to perform baseline tests on student athletes which can be used in case of a brain trauma injury to chart any affects the injury may have had.
“Baseline testing is very important,” Caputo said. “It gives us something to go off when an injury happens. There also has to be a short, physical test as well.”
Caputo said that the research of brain injuries and traumas has escalated over the past two years, with leagues like the NFL and NHL looking at ways to better protect their players heads.
“These are injuries that were not really well-recognized until the last couple of years,” Caputo said. “My biggest concern is that many are not treated properly. The brain is way complex, and a brain injury is way complex. That is why it is a different kettle of fish then treating a sprained ankle.”
Caputo said that proper recovery from a concussion is not just limited to keeping a child off the field or court.
“If it is taking them over an hour to do homework they could usually get done in half the time, they have a problem and it needs to be taken care of,” he said. “A concussion can be a problem for sports, but it can also be a problem for academics. They need to have that time to heal and that could include resting academically as well as athletically.”
Caputo said that over time, he felt sports may end up looking a lot different in order to combat brain trauma injuries.
“The way this is headed, there are going to be some major rule changes in some very popular sports. In football, if you eliminate helmet-to-helmet contact in any form, you eliminate a lot of the problems in the sport.”