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Safety on the sidelines? How Colorado high school sports safety - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Safety on the sidelines? How Colorado high school sports safety policies stack up

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At any moment, injury can happen in high school athletics.

Student-Athletes like Marissa Munoz, who plays soccer and softball at Central High School in Pueblo know that all too well.

“I lost consciousness for a bit, I had forgot everything that had happened," said Munoz.

Munoz has had three diagnosed concussions in three years.

Her first came at the age of 13 while playing softball, her second concussion happened shortly after while playing soccer.

“I was actually going up to grab a ball and I was about five feet from another person and he just blasted me in the face with the ball, so I fell back, I lost consciousness, I got dizzy, I couldn't remember a thing, so there I go again with another concussion,” said Munoz. “When your head gets hit, the brain rattles and it can cause inflammation, so she basically just told me to rest for two weeks."

Munoz suffered her third concussion during her junior year at Central High School during a play at the plate in a softball game.

Injuries like Munoz’ is something district administrators and athletic directors see around southern Colorado on a regular basis.

“We've had a lot of injuries, we've seen a lot of the concussions, we go through the protocols and concussions and we make sure that our athletic trainers are taking care of the athletes, we have our ambulance services available right there on the spot,” said Rich Macias, Athletic Director for Pueblo City Schools.

While Colorado High School athletics leaders on the state level tell the I-Team at News 5 they merely provide guidelines and suggestions for local school districts to follow with regards to athlete safety and injury protocols, local districts set their own individual policies.

The goal of state leaders is to keep kids as safe as possible said Rhonda Blanford-Green, Commissioner for the Colorado High School Activities Association.

“Nobody is above learning more and understanding more about really truly these conversations around safety and kids and concussion management and all of those things and we're going to continue to learn and put out the best practices for our coaches and our kids,” said Blanford-Green.

But, those with the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut published a national survey ranking states and their high school sports safety policies.

Colorado ranks dead last.

“It's a catastrophic failure really when you have letting state association decide, letting individual schools decide the policies because you're making the massive assumption that each school has their own thermal physiologist, they have their own environmental climatologist, they have their own cardiovascular AED experts," said Douglas Casa, CEO of The Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut.

The last place ranking has medical professionals around the state talking about how to constantly improve safety for our children.

"When I saw this article, my heart sank because all of us who work hard at trying to make this safer just felt like it was a slap in the face, but it was deserved in a way, you know, we work hard but if organizations don't find themselves being receptive, then this kind of thing happens and when you get ranked 51 out of 51 then it makes you look horrible,” said Dr. Rocky Khosla, a sports medicine physician.

The survey included a list of questions asking how well states were implementing policies to prevent catastrophic injury and sudden death among student-athletes.

Blanford-Green said while there is work to be done, she disagrees with the simplicity of the survey and Colorado’s ranking.

“Not to discredit anything they have done, but when you don't use a rubric and opportunity to expand on anything, you're going to get the type of ranking system that they did which puts some very, very prominent states that have very, very comprehensive programs in a position that you and I are having this conversation,” said Blanford-Green.

Meanwhile, Casa believes Colorado can make changes to improve immediately even though another study of national data shows high school sports related injuries are essentially just as common as they were 10 years ago.

A study funded by the Center for Disease Control and the National Federation of High School Associations and conducted by the University of Colorado Denver shows there is a slight increase in injuries for high school athletes during competition as compared to 10 years ago and a slight decrease of injuries in practice.

Regardless of the national ranking, districts work to reassure parents and kids that they’re doing everything they can to make sure kids are safe during practice and competition.

“Then again, it's a game, you can't really predict what's going to happen in a game, so I just try and go as hard as I can,” said Munoz.

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