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Wednesday, July 15, 2015: Soccer concussion discussion at a crossroads

   Leading off today: After checking a decade of data on concussions in U.S. high school soccer, a group of Colorado doctors has concluded a ban on heading the ball would decrease head injuries -- but not as much as consistently enforcing rules for player-to-player contact.

   A paper published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics sheds a different light on what might come from a Safer Soccer campaign led by Brandi Chastain and other women's soccer stars to ban headers for players 14 and under.

   The examination of incidents related to more than 1,000 high school soccer concussions concluded banning headers in youth soccer might reduce concussions by 30 percent but that a far larger decrease could be possible if rules that limit player-to-player contact were more stringently enforced.

   "A lot of people felt, if we could get a ban on heading, we could keep some people safe," said Dawn Comstock, an epidemiologist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. "My question was, is there any evidence out there that supports that?"

   Among Comstock's concerns is that the ban could lead to a different set of injuries as players move differently to avoid heading the ball. Her group wondered about the efficacy of changing the fundamental nature of the game by eliminating a key element.

   "It's like me walking into a football rules meeting and saying, 'I can make your game much, much safer. Just get rid of tackling,'" Comstock said.

   For years, Comstock and her co-authors have studied concussions in many sports, though this latest paper seems to put them on opposite sides from the Safer Soccer leaders.

   Comstock insists that isn't exactly the case. "It does seem logical to say, 'If most concussions occur during heading, let's stop heading,'" she said. "I understand the movement. But we have more data, and we can look at this in more detail."

   Closer to home: Westchester County Executive and former gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has formed a local concussion task force made up of coaches, ADs and medical professionals to develop a program for sidelines concussion management and post-injury treatment for high school athletes.

   The 20-person task force from across the county will work to teach prevention measures and educate parents, athletes and educators about post-concussion symptoms.

   "Our goal is to evaluate how the districts and health care professionals are working together to ensure the everyone involved understands the impact concussions can have on a child," said Mark Herceg, commissioner of the Department of Community Health and head of the Safer Sports initiative.

   The task force plans a free conference open to the public next month at the Westchester County Center.

   All-state baseball: Three seniors and two juniors have been selected New York State Sportswriters Association state baseball players of the year in their respective classes.

   The picks are:

  • Class AA: Mamaroneck senior pitcher/outfielder Kumar Nambiar.
  • Class A: Byram Hills junior pitcher/outfielder Frankie Vesuvio.
  • Class B: Mattituck junior pitcher/outfielder Joe Tardif.
  • Class C: Hoosic Valley senior pitcher/first baseman John Rooney.
  • Class D: Smithtown Christian pitcher/shortstop Vincent Ciaravino.
   The full all-state team can be found here. football site

   Following up: As tweeted out by Jordan Griffith of MSG Varsity earlier in the month, Woodlands girls basketball coach Ty Postell has resigned.

   Back in April, The Journal News reported that an unidentified Woodlands basketball star had to withdraw from the school after it was determined she allegedly was not a legal resident of the district. The 13-year-old student withdrew from the district after The Journal News asked district officials why she was allowed to attend eighth grade at Woodlands Middle School when public records showed her legal address is in Garnerville in Rockland County. (See earlier blog here.)

   School spokeswoman Natalia Baage-Lord told the paper this week Postell's resignation was not linked to the player's case, but she did not specify why he quit. Postell remains employed as a school safety monitor and is in "good standing," Greenburgh Central School District interim Superintendent Tahira Dupree-Chase said in a statement.

   "Postell did not recruit any student," Baage-Lord said. "His decision to not coach the upcoming year was completely his own."

   Postell led Woodlands to its first Section 1 title in 2014 before losing in the state semifinals. He did not respond to phone and text messages seeking comment. When the newspaper first raised questions about the girl's residency, Postell said, "She does live here. She does have an address here."

   Retired Port Jefferson coach dies: Retired Port Jefferson football coach John Robert "Bob" Estelle died June 30 in Florida at the age 87.

   Estelle steered Port Jefferson to three league championships in 14 years, including an 8-0 season in 1959 to cap a 26-4 run, during a 34-year teaching career. He resigned as football coach in 1968 to take over as athletic director, a post he held until 1985.

   Progress report: With Section 5 having posted its schedule last week, Steve Grandin has compiled the statewide 2015 football schedule. We've broken it down week-by-week on our website.

   Also, work on the NYSSWA Kerr Cup All-Sport Championship is complete. We will unveil the results of the seventh annual competition on Tuesday.

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