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Items in the news

Published November 18. 2011 05:01PM

There's plenty going on around the sports world right now.

This week the Press Pass will take a look at one local, one regional and one national item that have been in the news this recently.

This week Governor Tom Corbett signed a bill that puts new regulations on how concussions are dealt with among scholastic athletes.

The bill, which goes into effect in July of 2012, calls for athletes who suffer a concussion to come out of the game and not be allowed to return to practice or play without written clearance from a medical professional with expertise in concussions.

In addition, the bill calls for coaches to "complete the concussion management certification training course."

Those are all very sensible guidelines. And it's nice to see politicians doing the right thing. However, from my experience covering high school sports and talking to athletic directors and trainers, these guidelines are already being met by most, if not all, of the schools in our area.

One area athletic director said some athletes used to go to family doctors for clearance to return to play. Under the new law, they will now probably all go to athletic training specialists with cuncussion certification.

The bill sets up penalties for coaches who don't follow its rules. The penalties for violating these guidelines don't take effect until two years after the bill turns into law, so that's 2014.

The penalties are justifiably harsh for coaches who don't follow this new law. The first violation nets a suspension for the remainder of the season. The second gets the coach banned for the remainder of the current season and the entire upcoming season. A third violation would result in a coach being suspended from coaching permanently.

The bill states that school districts "may" hold an informational meeting prior to the season and recommends, but does not require, preseason baseline testing.

Baseline tests are extremely helpful for diagnosing concussions. Athletes' verbal and cognitive skills, as well as memory, attention span and other areas, are tested before participating. If a concussion occurs, they are retested. It not only helps diagnose the injury, but also allows medical staff to gauge the severity and recovery time.

Baseline tests are common in professional and college athletes in sports with high concussion rates, such as football and ice hockey.

Northern Lehigh athletic director Bryan Geist said his school already uses a computer based test called ImPACT as a baseline brain injury measurement tool.

Overall, the concussion bill might just be going over the things that are already being done, but it can't be a bad idea to raise awareness about the dangers of that injury.

In the press release announcing the bill's passing, Governor Corbett said "It's time to take concussions seriously, before they ruin young lives."

From what I've seen, nearly every high school in the area has been taking them seriously for a long time.

The other big local news involves the migration of Allentown high schools Allen and Dieruff to the Mountain Valley Conference for football.

The Lehigh Valley Conference gracefully granted the two schools up to four years to try to resurrect their programs in the MVC.

It seems great for almost everyone involved. The LVC can now play a 9-game schedule where every team faces one another. And none of them have to face the lowly Allentown public school teams. The MVC benefits in that it now has nine teams so schools will only need to schedule two nonleague games.

The only team that won't benefit from all of this is Lehighton, which will lose two valuable nonleague games against local rivals. Those two rivals will be replaced by Allen and Dieruff, two Class AAAA teams.

In years when Lehighton fields a competitive team there will be some benefits to playing those extra two big schools. It could help the Indians earn district ranking points. But a few points can't replace the money lost at the gate or the community spirit generated by those backyard rivalry games that will now fall by the way side.

Finally, Press Pass would like to chime on one national sports item while there is still space left in this column. That item is Andrew Luck and the notion that the Colts should draft him.

First, despite experts claims that the Stanford signal caller is the next Peyton Manning, there are no guarantees. No one really knows how good Luck will be in the pros.

Second, the way the Colts are playing now, they need to address several needs before quarterback. Even if Manning were playing, there's no way he could have made up for the inadequacies of this year's team. Assuming he'll be healthy next year, they need to fill in the pieces around him instead of looking for his future replacement.

Third, as long as Luck stays healthy, his stock will never be higher than on draft day. The team with the first pick holds the Golden Goose. At least a dozen teams need quarterbacks and a few will surely be willing to give a hefty price in draft picks for the annointed one.

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