With growing concussion concerns, Loudoun County parents pushing - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

With growing concussion concerns, Loudoun County parents pushing for football helmet sensors

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PURCELLVILLE, Va. -

The start of summer practice for a new high school football season is kicking off a new concussion controversy in northern Virginia.

This battle is between parents and school officials in Loudoun County. They both say they have the health and safety of their student athletes at heart, but they just have different points of view on how to achieve it.

The Loudoun Valley High School Vikings' football team is getting ready for the upcoming season on their practice field in Purcellville. But with concussions a growing concern, full contact drills are limited to 90 minutes a week.

"Loudoun County has well established protocols for concussions,” said assistant principal Bill Oblas. “Every athletic director and every coach is annually certified in recognition and treatment of concussions."

But the parents of some of these players want to take it a step further. They want to add $75 concussion-sensing devices placed on the helmets to those protocols.

"That green light will stop flashing and that red light will turn on,” said parent Dee Howard describing the sensor.

Her 16-year-old son Dexter is a lineman for the Vikings. She and other parents stormed the practice field last week to try to force the issue.

"We purchased 40 devices and [the company] Brain Sentry donated 80 devices and we placed them on approximately 25 to 30 of the athlete's helmets,” said Howard. “And we were told that they weren't going to take them off of our helmets, but they would not allow any athlete with that sensor on their helmet onto the practice field."

"It was a difficult day,” said Oblas. “It kind of concerned us that parents were putting them on, not only on their own student's helmets, but other students' helmets. So it is what it is. They subsequently came back and removed all of them. So the students are now participating. And our stance is if they have sensors on their helmets, they won't be participating in drills."

Howard and other parents are turning the page on their playbook and they will appeal to the school board.

She also points out some players use plastic visors on their helmets.

"They're placed on there as a safety device for the athlete's eyes just like a mouth guard for an athlete's teeth,” Howard said. “And we want a safety device on their helmets for the athlete's brain."

But Loudoun County school officials say all of the experts they listen to have advised them not use the sensors.

"We certainly don't want to be the beta testing site for these instruments and they have not been validated as far as we can tell in the research,” said Oblas.

These sensors are made by a Bethesda-based company and used by two major universities college and the Arena Football League. The company wants to break into the high school market and insist within a few years these concussion sensors will become standard equipment.

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