BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater-Raritan High School will be receiving new, technologically-advanced football helmets for its upcoming season – the problem is, there won’t be enough of them to go around.
The matter was brought up at the most recent meeting of the Bridgewater-Raritan board of education by local parent and teacher Amy MacMath, who also serves as a senior football parent liaison at the high school. She told the board that evening that 53 concussion-monitoring helmets had been purchased for the football program, thanks to varsity head coach Scott Bray.
The new helmets are expected to make a difference when it comes to monitoring players’ health, and any potential concussions they might sustain from impacts absorbed during play.
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“Little impacts do most of the damage,” said MacMath, adding that the damage builds up, as opposed to damage sustained from large, singular, heavy collisions.
The new helmets will allow coaches and athletic trainers to keep a better eye on players on the spot, at both practices and games, and to make immediate changes depending upon the impact data received.
MacMath said she wondered, though, about the 50 or more players who would not receive one of the newer, more technologically-advanced helmets, and how also to tell parents that their sons might not be getting one. She added that the situation puts both Bray and BRHS Athletic Director John Maggio in an awkward position, and she hopes to open a dialogue with the school board on the issue.
MacMath said she estimates the high school will probably need 150 helmets in all, of various sizes, for all its players. She estimated that that would cost about $38,000 in all, without utilizing the all-sports budget.
She also believed it would cost $20,000 at minimum to outfit the sophomores through the seniors. The high school fields football teams at both the freshman and varsity levels.
“You can’t put a price on the safety and health of students,” MacMath said.
Another parent, Maritcelly Mendez, who works as a pediatric occupational therapist, said she has concerns for her younger son, who is scheduled to play football at the high school this fall .
“As a therapist, I’ve served multiple kids with concussions,” she said.
Mendez described the symptoms of a concussion, which is precipitated when the brain strikes the side of the skull, as the result of an impact like those that occur in contact sports such as football and ice hockey. The results can include chemical changes in the brain, and even damage to brain cells.
“The brain is complex,” said Mendez. “Every brain injury is different.”
She added that the severity of a brain injury also might not be realized immediately, and that students are better off using the new helmets.
“All kids should be protected," she said.
Board member Barry Walker asked about the athletics budget, and said he didn’t know that not enough new helmets had been purchased for everyone. Superintendent Russell Lazovick said that the high school’s football helmets are certified every year, and that the new technology might give the district more information to keep its student athletes safer.
Board member Jeffrey Brookner said it is a budget issue, and that new technology needs to be phased in over time. Board member Lynne Hurley said one of her kids had once missed 12 weeks of school after sustaining a concussion in an athletic event, and then was injured again upon return to competition.
“If technology can monitor for the kids and tell us, I think we should get it as soon as possible,” said Hurley, “as soon as we can afford it.”
Lazovick cautioned that the new technology gives a measure of an impact sustained, but does not reveal if an athlete has been injured.
“We have to follow a process,” he said, with the athletic director having to make a recommendation along with the football coach.
On the matter of selecting which BRHS football players will receive the new advanced helmets first, the board said they felt it would be up to the coach. It is also believed that any players who have previously sustained a concussion will be one of those to obtain a new helmet.