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Feb 19, 2014 7:17 PM by Dave Fields

56 percent of LHS baseballers test positive for concussions

Of the 25 Lafayette High School (LHS) baseball players to undergo concussion tests, 14 thus far have tested positive, raising questions about the ability for Lafayette High to field a complete team for Saturday or Monday's upcoming contests.

The team apparently will press into action quite a few newer and younger players who were not passengers on the bus ride that ended unexpectedly in St. Mary Parish.

"Monday's the opener against Dutchtown at UL. We'll see how things go Saturday (at the jamboree) and go from there," said Sam Taulli, the LHS head coach, who also had suffered minor injuries in the crash, but has remained on the job this week. Asst. Coach Cody Ortego suffered more significant injuries and has remained home to recuperate.

Taulli explained that, because Saturday's jamboree doesn't officially count in league standings, the team will fill roster holes with freshmen and junior varsity baseball players who could use the experience. If need be, the team will employ the same strategy for the team's season opener against Dutchtown on Monday at UL's Tigue Moore Field.

"We haven't been able to practice the last two days," Taulli said. "Tomorrow, all the guys that have been cleared, we're going to make a practice schedule and get after it, and see what kind of team we can put out on the field Saturday. I'm just kind of anxious to get back to normal."

School officials cautioned against returning to the field too quickly.

"The students' safety comes first, not the playing of games," said Dr. Patrick Leonard, LHS principal.

According to Acadiana Physical Therapy owner and director, John Roy, the concussion tests were administered Tuesday by LHS athletic trainer Aimee Mattox. The ImPACT protocol used by Lafayette Parish Schools is the same one used by the National Football League, Roy said.

Roy also revealed that each of the LHS players who tested on Tuesday and Wednesday also had been tested prior to the school bus collision on Saturday, Feb. 15, in St. Mary Parish, providing trainers with invaluable baseline data to determine the extent of each player's injuries resulting directly from the impact of Saturday's crash. The team's head coach echoed Roy's sentiments about the importance of procuring baseline data prior to the accident.

"It gives you a baseline analysis where a kid is showing different problems, concentration, light sensitivity and things like that; and if they can't answer the questions in the same amount of time they did the first time, then there's something there you need to take a look at. It's been a valuable tool for our trainers and also for the doctors to make sure that their ready to get back on the field and won't hurt themselves anymore," Taulli said.

Mattox detailed for KATC what has been a week-long process for the LHS baseball players.

"Sunday, I, along with the counseling staff, talked with the parents and students. I explained to the parents concussion signs and symptoms so they could become aware of any in their child," said Mattox. "At the end of the meeting, I started to get histories from the boys. Monday, I sat down with each boy (if they were at school) to get each one's history, signs, symptoms."

Taulli said that the experience has been particularly trying.

"It's extremely hard to get a 14, 15-year-old to sit down and not do anything," Taulli explained. "Now the ones who have concussions, we try to keep them out of the sunlight as much as possible and keep them in a quiet area."

"The guys that have been cleared already, they've gone in the cage and hit and they're throwing, trying to keep themselves in shape, but there's only been 5 or 6 of those," continued the head coach. "When you're dealing with young people, you've just got to tell them what's best for them and make them understand in the long run, you've got to do what the doctors tell you to do."

Mattox and Roy said that the "majority of the team" had been tested by Wednesday, but that any remaining players currently not attending school eventually would undergo the procedure.

Mattox also noted that parents were informed of Tuesday and Wednesday's test results and were given an interpretation of the findings. In some cases, further medical attention was suggested.

"I sent a letter out to each family informing them how the athlete was doing," Mattox stated. "If they needed to see a doctor, I asked them to call me and I would be able to recommend one or help to get an appointment."

Mattox said that the process ahead includes following protocol and obtaining clearance.

" From here, I am just trying to help out the parents and counselors," Mattox said. "If they need help with anything, they know to call me so I can help be a liaison. For the athletes with concussions, we are following the LPSS Concussion protocol and checking them three times a day for symptoms. I am one of the people that are helping to check them. I am also making sure we are getting clearance notes from doctors for those that need them so they can return to the field when they are physically and mentally able to."

Roy said that Acadiana Physical Therapy trainers said that sometimes the ImPACT data does not match the players' descriptions of how they are feeling.

"I've had athletes that tell me they're okay, but scores of the the test have been low in comparison to baseline data," Roy said. Roy also expressed satisfaction with the fact, he said, that Lafayette Parish Schools has funded the use of the ImPACT software being utilized by his company, which supplies athletic trainers to all Lafayette Parish Schools athletic programs.

"I'm so glad that we're using this (ImPACT) now because athletes want to participate and we also want them to participate safely," Roy said.

LHS players also found themselves in somewhat of a logistical crunch because practice was followed by question-and-answer sessions with National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators who visited the LHS campus to interview players and coaches.

According to school staff, questions posed by NTSB investigators, who arrived from Washington, D.C., included queries about the students' seating locations, the type of impact made within the vehicle, instructions provided for exiting the vehicle, and several other inquiries.

Leonard also expressed great pride in his students and staff who rode on the bus, noting that the players demonstrated maturity "beyond their years." Leonard praised the efforts of students who attempted to assist others in whichever ways they were able to do so.


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