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Concussion Prevention a Top Priority at Westlake

MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. – Donna Pirro has made strives over the past two years to ensure that concussion safety is a top priority at Westlake High School.

Pirro is beginning her third year as the athletic director at Westlake, and has been working with the board of education to make sure that concussion prevention in student athletes is a top priority.

"We've focused a lot on educating our young people on the signs and symptoms of concussions and also the importance of coming forward and reporting any possible symptoms," Pirro said.

One major facet that Pirro and the board of education have recently implemented is a specific concussion management team. The team consists of Pirro, the athletic training staff, school nurses, a school psychologist and neuropsychologist Dr. Robert J. Dunkle, who specializes in concussions and head trauma. When Pirro first started as athletic director at Westlake, the department did not even have their own athletic trainer.

"We've had the opportunity to talk with other area athletic programs and see what they were doing and also add some things that they were not able to do, such as having Dr. Dunkle come in and work with us," Pirro said.

Pirro, Dunkle and the rest of the concussion team will speak to all the athletes and parents before the fall season begins later this month in order to educate on the issue of concussions. They will also have all student athletes participate in the imPACT program, an online neurocognitive test that can help detect concussion symptoms.

Assumptions may be that some athletes wish to withhold certain injuries, such as concussions, in order to stay on the playing field and not miss game time. However, Pirro said she has found it to be the opposite with her student athletes.

"I thought it would take some time for everyone to get used to reporting to and complying with the training staff but that hasn't been the case at all," Pirro said. "I think with head injuries the student athletes are really getting how serious they can be.”

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