Concussion protocol ... what if nothing happened?

Worked a multi-day tournament this week.

On night 1 I was on the tower for Team Mean Green’s first game.  I noticed a player acting a little odd — holding her head and staring off into space — as we started the game.  A handful of serves into the game, she seemed to momentarily lose her balance while crouching in preparation for the incoming serve (rocked back on her heels and jerked her head like she just woke up).

When she came up to serve, she immediately launched into her serve before I even had my hand up.  I chirped, we returned the ball to her, and she waited for my whistle.  When I whistled, she stepped over the line by a good 12-18 inches like she didn’t even know it was there.

I have CPed players before, but both times it was after an incident.  In this case, nothing had happened.  During action she seemed pretty much OK.  During the break between sets, I called my partner over and asked his opinion.  “Teenage girls.” he said and walked away.  I wanted to talk to the coach afterwards, but the game ended on a call they didn’t like, so I left it alone.

The next night I am on the floor for Team Mean Green’s second game.  During warmups I watch this girl a little closer.  She seems a little more attentive, but still kind of squirrelly.  Three plays into the game and she takes a spike to the forehead.  She was a little stunned and dazed.  

My partner (different from the night before) was holding up play for the coach to go check on her.  The coach never did.  After a few moments, the coach asked “Do I need to take her out?”  My partner nods yes from across the floor.  The girl comes out with a substitution (she started to just walk off the court).

At the first timeout, I anticipate the coach asking me if the girl can go back in, so I go to ask my partner if we are CPing her (no trainer onsite).  He says “No, I just said she had to come out because we were past the 30 seconds allotted for an injury and the coach had not gone out there.”

The coach never asked.  After 15 minutes or so, the player left the bench with another coach.  She never came back.

My suspicion is she either should have been or was in concussion protocol prior to our first game.

So, my question is this: Can you remove a player for concussion protocol if you didn’t witness anything and are not aware of any incident?

This is tough. If I noticed it, I might go to the coach between sets and ask about her. Maybe she has a known condition to cause these actions to be "normal" and the coach isn't worried at all. Flagging a girl for CP in this case makes you look crass. However, seeing how the second day played out, I'd find it hard to believe the first day was normal.

I'm sorry, may I ask what is concussion protocol in your assosiation?

No need to be sorry! In Illinois all IHSA sports officials have to take a concussion education class once every three years. We are not taught to medically diagnose a concussion, but we learn about the possible signs and symptoms, as well as the long-term health concerns.

If we have a player exhibiting signs of a concussion (after an impact?), we are to remove the player from the game. Coaches do not have any say in this. If there is an athletic trainer or medical professional assigned to the game, they can examine the player and affirm the suspected concussion or clear the player to re-enter the game. If there is not a qualified medical professional there, then the player may not re-enter and must get released by a doctor before being allowed to play again.

As an official, we must file a special report if we remove a player. Unfortunately, having to file a report means there are officials who choose to “look the other way”.

Incidentally, I’ve been asking officials I’ve worked with over the last few weeks. The opinions have been split pretty well 50/50.

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