Tamaqua Area football players may soon have an impact testing program available in the event of sustaining a concussion while participating on the gridiron.

The school district is also looking to move forward with drug and alcohol testing for students involved in co-curricular activities.

Tamaqua Area High School Principal RuthAnn Gardiner explained the impact testing during the district's Auxiliary Committee meeting Tuesday evening.

Gardiner explained that the agreement is with OAA Orthopaedic Specialists to conduct the impact testing, which would be provided at no cost to the district.

"They are offering impact testing for our football players," said Gardiner. "This is a cognitive test taken in the school's computer lab that creates a report, should a student suffer a concussion. This would make sure the cognitive level is back before they return to play."

Gardiner noted that currently, students can "doctor shop" when they have an injury in order to seek approval to return to competition. "This would at least make them go through Dr. (Craig) Krause (the school's physician)," she stated.

The testing would be for this year's players in grades 8-11 and would be voluntary.

"We've tried to get this testing for many years, and it will be of great benefit for our kids," said Athletics Dirfector Michael Hromyak.

Dr. Thomas Rottet, board vice president and Auxiliary Committee chairman, agreed.

"The effect (of concussions) is culmulative," said Rottet. "This is a real important issue to be approved, and it's an awesome program."

"I would want my child to take it and not come back too soon from a concussion," said Board President Larry A. Wittig, whose son is a member of the Blue Raiders football squad.

Hromyak said that, according to the high school trainer, four Tamaqua football players suffered concussions this past year, while two boys soccer players did.

The board also discussed having the program extended for other sports but is focusing on football for now.

Treasurer Daniel E. Schoener wanted to know if the program could be made mandatory for football players as well as potential liability issues.

Wittig said the district can't make a policy just for one sport. "Maybe we should ride this out," he suggested, preferring to keep the program voluntary for now. "I think it should be strongly encouraged."

The committee voted to put the impact testing on the school board's agenda for its monthly meeting on May 18.

The drug and alcohol testing was presented to the Education Committee. It was previously discussed and is being revisiting at this time, said Assistant Superintendent Raymond J. Kinder.

Kinder said a committee has looked at the drug testing policies of Schuylkill County districts, including North Schuylkill, Williams Valley, Tri-Valley and Minersville, which already have it in place.

Kinder said the administration is recommending drug testing similar to what is used for juvenile probation testing. "The results are 99.9 percent reliable," he noted.

It was explained that the drug and alcohol testing proposal differs from the school's current drug and alcohol policy, which deals with students who are found to be under the influence while on school premises.

"This (testing) does not take the student out of school," said Kinder. "It takes them out of extracurricular activities, but gives them avenues to come back at some point, as well as for asking for help."

Kinder said the biggest benefit to the testing is built-in defense to peer pressure. "This gives them a built-in excuse not to do it (drugs or alcohol), and students like that," he said.

The policy would be for students in grades 7-12. Kinder said there is currently enough funding available to test every student twice, on a mandatory basis and again once more on a random basis.

"We have enough money to double the testing," Kinder related.

The board will consider the first reading of the drug and alcohol co-curricular testing at its May 18 meeting.