"At that point, the brain essentially shuts the body down to try to preserve the last bits of glucose; the kid stops breathing, and he doesn't come back," Erwin said. "That's what we're most worried about."
Putnam County employs four full-time athletic trainers at its high schools, according to Superintendent Chuck Hatfield. Each is trained to recognize concussions in an athlete, and state law mandates that student-athletes diagnosed with concussions cannot resume play until they are cleared by an approved medical health professional.
"We hired full-time, certified athletic trainers three or four years ago, and I don't know if there is another system in the state that has done that," Hatfield said. "Their entire focus is to take care of our student-athletes."
Erwin said he hopes to get every Putnam County middle and high school involved in "ImPACT testing" to ensure better and more informed diagnoses. ImPACT, or Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing, is a computer testing system widely used in college athletics and the NFL.
"Science and evaluation is advancing, and it's good that we're trying to keep up," said board member Debbie Phillips. "I think it's a matter of attitude, also -- adjusting and accepting new science."
The BOE will hold a meeting Thursday at 1 p.m. with the county's football and soccer coaches to discuss how to best address concussions in countywide policy.
Athletes who play football and soccer are the most likely to suffer concussions.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.