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Sally Gaytan feels better about letting her son lace up his cleats and play football for the Vela Middle School Panthers on Saturday mornings, she said.

Starting this school year, students participating in athletic programs at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District are going to have a tougher time coming back to practice after sustaining a head injury.

“The additional steps they are taking to make sure students are 100 percent healthy after a head injury makes me, as a parent, feel that these programs have the students’ safety in mind,” said Gatyan, a parent of an eighth grade football player at Vela Middle School and teacher at Harlingen High School South.

HCISD has begun implementing a concussion management plan to comply with Texas State Legislature House Bill 2038. All school districts in Texas had to begin compliance by Sept. 1.

“Our first concern is our students’ safety,” said Raul Zamarripa, athletic trainer at Harlingen High School. “We’ve always had a protocol for concussions. Their safety is the reason behind taking a more conservative approach to returning them back to activity.”

Under the new concussion management plan, any student that displays symptoms of a concussion will be taken out of activity until they receive clearance from a physician and they complete the concussion protocol system.

“Concussion protocol is a five step system of progression to which the student gradually comes back into activity,” said HCISD Athletic Director Randy Cretors. “If at any time the student displays symptoms of a concussion, then they go back to the previous step. Student athletes are not cleared until all steps are completed.”

A Concussion Oversight Team (COT) that consists of licensed physicians, Zamarripa and Larry Madden, athletic trainer at HHSS, developed the concussion protocol.

“We worked over the summer to develop the protocol, and tailor it to the needs of HCISD,” Zamarripa said. “We based the process on scientific research and the knowledge of our physicians and athletic trainers.”

The physicians on the COT have donated their time to the school district, and will be present at every varsity contest and football event to monitor injuries.

For sub-varsity contests, trainers will be on site. For middle school athletic events, coaches will be trained to identify concussion symptoms.

“To combine efforts, all coaches at HCISD were required to attend a training seminar to identify symptoms of a concussion,” Cretors said. “If they did not complete the seminar by Sept. 1, they were not allowed to coach.”

If there is more than one event at any of the campuses, then Emergency Medical Service employee will be present, Cretors said.

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