Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park on Saturday launched what backers are calling the most comprehensive concussion awareness program among high school athletic programs in Sonoma County.
Scores of athletes in fall sports, including cheerleaders, began baseline concussion testing and underwent an education component on symptoms, dangers and recovery times.
"We are basically saying it's mandated," Rancho Cotate Assistant Principal Angela Scardina said. "If you are going to be an athlete at Rancho Cotate High School, you are taking this baseline test. We are taking it serious."
Volleyball and boys and girls soccer players took the test Saturday, and football players are scheduled to take the approximately 40-minute computerized test this week.
The testing program — which was purchased for $750 to cover all of Rancho's athletes — captures an athlete's reaction time to a series of questions. A student suspected of having sustained a head injury will be required to retake the test to provide comparison reaction times.
"The education is key because attitudes toward concussions are changing," said Dr. Ty Affleck, who heads Santa Rosa Sports and Family Medicine and is a part of the nonprofit group North Coast Concussion Management that helped administer the tests Saturday.
"When the athlete says, 'No, I'm tougher than this; I'm going back in,' it's their teammate that is going to say, 'Your brain is more important,'" he said.
"Do you think you are a benefit to your team when your reaction time is off and you are not sure what you are doing, but you want to be there?" he said. "Is that helpful to your team?"
The concussion management group was established last spring and is made up of doctors, athletic trainers, parents and others who are volunteering time to educate athletes, coaches and parents about symptoms and strategies.
"That is my goal — to educate the parents as well," said Sachi Woods, a member of the management group and mother of a Rancho Cotate volleyball player. "The parents have to be the ones who say, 'I know it's the middle of the game, but my child is clearly injured.'"