The high school football season begins in West Virginia tonight with five games across the state, including two in Kanawha County. Another 54 games involving Mountain State teams will take place Friday night and two games will take place Saturday.
Late summer and fall is a magical time for high school sports fans. Besides football, which brings thousands of people from local communities together, the season brings together competitors and fans in boys and girls soccer, volleyball, cross country and cheer.
Fortunately this year, many of the competitors on the field, as well as fans in the stands, will be safer than ever.
The West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission recently required head coaches of all sports at the middle- and high-school level to receive training on concussions — how to recognize a concussion and how to proceed with a student if a suspected concussion were to occur.
Although required for head coaches, the SSAC made the training available for others as well.
While much of the focus is on the athletes, emergency medical responders are not forgetting the fans.
"Did you know the No. 1 place to have a heart attack in a small community is at a sporting event?" asked Dr. Jim Kyle, West Virginia Region 1 Emergency Medical Services Director.
Coaches and game referees meet to discuss the rules and conditions moments before kick off of every game. Kyle is starting a program for high school administrators and emergency response teams to conduct an emergency medical inventory 30 minutes before kick off, reports Lisa Shrewsberry of the Register-Herald in Beckley.
Kyle's checklist includes evaluation of Advanced Cardiac Life Support equipment, backboard and medical tools inventory, identifying and conveying a landing zone for possible air medical transport, and reviewing a plan for spectator illnesses.
Those in the medical huddle include team physicians, athletic trainers and paramedics.
Kyle is in the early stages of rolling out this program — primarily in southern West Virginia so far, with plans for a statewide roll out in 2014.
Any actions to make the fall sports season safer are welcomed.
Here's wishing safety and good sportsmanship for competitors and fans all season long.