A top priority of Gull Lake athletics is maintaining student safety. To avoid unsafe playing conditions and prolonged sports related injuries, Gull Lake abides by a number of state safety standards.
Gull Lake follows the Michigan High School Athletic Association, or MHSAA’s four H’s health initiative, that focuses on the following factors: Health History, Heads, Heat and Hearts.
Before an athlete may compete, he or she must have a complete physical exam and medical history form submitted to the athletic office. The form provides coaches and trainers with vital information about any health conditions an athlete may have—especially cardiac conditions, that could prove hazardous on the playing field. Supplied with this information, coaches can take appropriate preventative action to assure that their athletes remain as safe as possible.
The MHSAA also requires that coaches follow certain procedures to prevent injury during practice. For example, the MHSAA provides a model policy for managing heat, humidity and dehydration issues.
The policy includes a suggested procedure to follow during varying levels of heat and humidity, as well as when it is considered unsafe for athletes to practice.
“New this year is the MHSAA requirement that all of our coaches be CPR and AED certified,” said Gull Lake district nurse, Joni Knapper.
A major issue that threatens a student athlete’s health and safety remains returning to play prematurely after an injury. To lessen the probability of this occurring, Gull Lake must follow certain post-injury procedures.
Gull Lake has recently implemented a new concussion assessment program called imPACT. Also known as Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing, imPACT is a digital cognitive evaluation. Athletes are required to take this assessment before they begin practice.
If at any time during the season an athlete is injured and is suspected to have a concussion, they may be reassessed with imPACT.
Of course, the imPACT assessment is not the sole factor in deciding when an athlete may return to play. While the imPACT program is certainly a helpful tool, the physician ultimately has the final word. In fact, according to the MHSAA concussion protocol, “any athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms, or behaviors consistent with a concussion […] shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health care professional.”
Injuries other than a concussion tend to require a more complex procedure.
“It’s usually a decision made by the trainer or the doctor,” Knapper said.
The athletic trainer is well equipped to distinguish a sprain or strain from a broken bone, and determines whether or not a student injury is serious enough that he or she should be referred to a physician.