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We are big supporters of school athletics. Organized sports have been proven to actually raise IQ, to building confidence, and teach kids about emotional self-control and team work. However, parents need to take the danger of concussions seriously.

A concussion is a disturbance in brain function that occurs following either a blow to the head or as a result of the violent shaking of the head. In the United States, the annual incidence of sports-related concussion is estimated at 300,000. Estimates regarding the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion may be as high as 19% per season.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) study of high school and college athletes with concussion, on-the-field amnesia, rather than loss of consciousness, was predictive of post-injury symptom severity and neurocognitive deficits referred to as Post-Concussion Syndrome. Suffering a second blow to the head while recovering from an initial concussion “Second Impact Syndrome,” can have catastrophic consequences and has led to approximately 30-40 deaths over the past decade.

While we associate the dangers of concussions most commonly with football, the truth is that players in many sports endure impacts or sudden twists which can cause them. Luckily, whereas in the old days athletes were told to shake it off, the medical community has come to realize the potential consequences of these traumatic brain injuries.

As of this January, all 50 States have legislation addressing concussion in high school athletics. In California, Education Code 49475 requires school districts which elect to offer athletic programs to immediately remove any athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury during that activity from participating in a school-sponsored athletic activity for the remainder of the day. The return of the athlete to that activity requires written clearance from a licensed health care provider, trained in the management of concussions, and acting within the scope of his or her practice. Also, it requires that a concussion and head injury information sheet to be signed and returned by the athlete and the athlete’s parent or guardian yearly before the athlete participates in practice or competition. In January, this law started to apply to charter and private schools.

See here and here.

That is why we were so pleased to hear about a pilot program at Woodside High School the first in the Sequoia Union High School District – designed to reduce the dangers of concussions. The pilot program is being conducted with the help of Sequoia Hospital which is paying for the pilot program as well as providing staff to administer the tests.l

About half of the boys lacrosse team at Woodside High have begun using a diagnostic test known as ImPACT (“Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing”) to test for concussions. The ImPACT test is considered to be the most accurate computerized test available, and is used in conjunction with a doctor to determine whether a student needs to stop playing and heal. Founded by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Concussion Program, this software system is utilized throughout professional sports. It has been mandated in the NHL and is increasingly being used by other professional sports teams as well as college and high school teams. The test involves an online, computerized exam that the athlete takes prior to the athletic season. It provides a baseline to assist health professionals in determining the extent of the injury and monitoring when the athlete should return to the field.

If your young ‘un, plays team sports, you may want to arrange for this baseline test yourself. Baseline ImPACT tests may be taken on-line through the Impact website for a fee of $15.00. https://www.impacttest.com/ Once completed these tests are stored and remain confidential so that they can be accessed in the event of a future concussion injury. Total testing time is approximately 20 minutes.

We applaud this pilot program in our High School and hope that it will be quickly expanded to other sports and other schools. After all, keeping our kids safe is our number one priority!

The new year brought us a new law protecting Mountain Lions in our state. SB 132 sponsored our own State Senator Jerry Hill. In 1990, voters enacted the California Wildlife Protection Act. The act established that the mountain lion is a specially protected mammal under the laws of this state, and makes it unlawful to take, injure, possess, transport, import, or sell any mountain lion or any part or product thereof. However, it authorized the Department of Fish and Wildlife, or other appropriate agencies to remove or take any mountain lion that is perceived to be an imminent threat to public health or safety or that is perceived by the department to be an imminent threat to the survival of certain sheep species. Under the act, mountain lions that are authorized to be taken were required to be taken by the most effective means available. This bill requires nonlethal procedures be used when removing or taking any mountain lion that has not been designated as an imminent threat to public health or safety.

As all COWs know, Mountain Lions are definitely part of our landscape. These beautiful wild animals often wander into inhabited areas. In the past, this has often meant that they would be killed by game wardens.

The bill was a reaction to the fact that two 13-pound Mountain Lion cubs were shot and killed by game wardens in Half Moon Bay in December 2012. The killings were unnecessary as the cubs didn’t pose a danger to anyone. California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials will now be working with rescue groups to capture Mountain Lions that wander into populated areas, and tranquilize and relocate them to areas safer for them (and for us!).

Senator Hill has noted the success of his new law, with cats in San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles already being spared. A 15-pound cub in Santa Barbara’s life was saved in early January due to the new law. We want to thank Senator Hill for his sensible legislation protecting these big cats.

Of course, Mountain Lions can be dangerous if approached too closely, and should be given their space. The recent sighting in Portola Valley remind us of this, and remind us to be smart around the big cats. With the drought this year, these cats are likely to be roaming into inhabited areas more frequently than ever this year. A good list for what to do should you encounter a Mountain Lion is here, provided by the Mountain Lion Foundation, an advocacy group.

You can see some of the amazing wildlife in our region in a series of amazing photos run recently on the SF Chronicle’s website – trail cams caught candid shots of Mountain Lions, bears, and lots of other critters.

For more facts about Mountain Lions in California, check out this web page by the California Department of Fish and Game here.