Concussion Awareness & Safety Recognition Policy


It is Special Olympics Vermont’s intent to take steps to help ensure the health and safety of all Special Olympics participants. Therefore, everyone involved in Special Olympics Vermont programs should remember that safety comes first and should take reasonable steps to help minimize the risks for concussion or other serious brain injuries.

Defining a Concussion

A concussion is defined by the Centers for Disease Control as a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head as well as serial, cumulative hits to the head.

Concussions can also occur from a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth—causing the brain to bounce around or twist within the skull. Although concussions are usually not life-threatening, their effects can be serious and therefore proper attention must be paid to individuals suspected of sustaining a concussion.

Suspected or Confirmed Concussion

Effective August 1, 2015, a participant who is suspected of sustaining a concussion in a practice, game or competition shall be removed from practice, play or competition at that time. If a qualified medical professional* is available on-site to render an evaluation, that person shall have final authority as to whether or not a concussion is suspected. If applicable, the participant’s parent or guardian should be made aware that the participant is suspected of sustaining a concussion.

*See “qualified medical professional” in FAQ Sheet

Return to Play

A participant who has been removed from practice, play or competition due to a suspected concussion may not participate in Special Olympics sports activities until either of the following occurs (i) at least seven (7) consecutive days have passed since the participant was removed from play and a currently licensed, qualified medical professional provides written clearance for the participant to return to practice, play and competition or (ii) a currently licensed, qualified medical professional determines that the participant did not suffer a concussion and provides written clearance for the participant to return to practice play immediately. Written clearance in either of the scenarios above shall become a permanent record.

Required Training and Timeline

All Coaches are required to complete the following concussion awareness training course. Certificate of completion must be submitted to Special Olympics Vermont.

Any concussion awareness training other than the above-referenced course must be approved by SOVT. For Coaches registering for the first time on or after August 1, 2015, confirmation of such training must be provided to Special Olympics Vermont prior to the individual beginning volunteer duties. For Coaches registered prior to July 31, 2015, confirmation of such training must be provided to Special Olympics Vermont to Justin Graham ( PRIOR to your athletes’ NEXT competition.

Frequency of Training

Concussion awareness training must be completed by all Coaches at least once every two years.

Communication with Parents and Guardians

Special Olympics Vermont is required to communicate in writing to anyone working with participants, the concussion awareness and safety recognition program, as outlined in the Suspected or Confirmed Concussion and Return to Play sections of this policy. Special Olympics Vermontis also requiring all local programs inform the parents/guardians of those that participate in their programs, of this policy.

The Centers for Disease Control website provides additional resources relative to concussions that may be of interest to participants and their families/care providers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who is considered a “qualified medical professional”?
    • Special Olympics Vermont uses the Vermont Department of Education’s definition as it pertains to a “qualified medical professional” evaluating the status of a concussion.
    • The Vermont statute is very broad in its definition of who can certify that an athlete is ready to return to athletic activity, defining it as a “health care provider licensed pursuant to Title 26 and trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and other head injuries.” Since this definition includes a broad array of health care providers, not all of whom are well-suited to making concussion-related return-to-play decisions, the Vermont DOE recommends that either a medical doctor licensed under 26 VSA Chapter 23, an osteopathic physician licensed under 26 VSA Chapter 33, an advanced practice registered nurse licensed under 26 VSA Chapter 28, a physician’s assistant licensed under 26 VSA Chapter 31, or a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
  2. Can an individual use a concussion awareness training system that is different from the National Federation of State High School Associations Concussion in Sports training?
    • Special Olympics Vermont will consider alternative training systems. If you are interesting in utilizing an alternative training system, please provide a copy of the training (or link to the training) to Justin Graham ( for consideration.
  3. How often is the concussion training required?
    • After the initial training is completed (as outlined in the policy), all coaches must complete the training and provide confirmation of such training to SOVT at least once every two years. Frequency of training is consistent with the requirements set forth by the State of Vermont Department of Education for sport coaches.
  4. How should parents/guardians be notified of a suspected concussion?
    • The Center for Disease Control’s website includes several tools that can be provided to parents/guardians of a participant with a suspected concussion. It will also be important to share with the parent/guardian next steps relative to the participant’s return to play, as outlined in the policy. Information can be found here:
  5. Why are coaches for non-contact sports required to complete concussion awareness training?
    • Although concussions may be more likely to occur in contact sports, concussions can occur as a result of any organized or unorganized recreational activity, and therefore it is important that all coaches participate in concussion awareness training.
  6. Why do Special Olympics’ Return to Play requirements as outlined in the Concussion Awareness and Safety Recognition Policy differ from the guidelines provided via the concussion training courses?
    • The return to play guidelines described in some of the concussion training courses require gradually re-introducing strenuous physical activity over the course of several training sessions for those who have suffered concussions. Because Special Olympics’ practices/activities do not occur on a daily basis as is often the case for interscholastic sports training, a similar type of return to play could be difficult to administer and could require a long period of time before an athlete is able to fully participate in Special Olympics activities. The Return to Play protocol included in the Special Olympics concussion awareness policy incorporates the Risk Management Insurance Task Force’s and Medical Advisory Council’s careful consideration of the most appropriate Return to Play protocol for Special Olympics athletes/activities.
  7. How will Special Olympics Vermont track coach completion of concussion training?
    • Special Olympics Vermont will implement its own policies and procedures for tracking completion of the concussion training.
      • National Federation of State High School Association Training – The coach will receive a certificate at the end of the training course that can be printed and sent to Special Olympics Vermont via email, fax or postage mail. In addition, Special Olympics North America will provide U.S. Programs with a quarterly list of individuals who have taken the course and have listed Special Olympics under “school/organization” when completing the profile information. Additionally, Special Olympics Vermont may look up coaches using the “coach search” feature or distribute courses to each coach and track each coach’s progress as administrative.
  8. Why are coaches required to complete the training only once every 2 years?
    • Programs may require coaches to complete the training more frequently. However, the 2-year cycle was chosen to coincide with the State of Vermont Department of Education requirement.
  9. What if a coach does not complete the required training?
    • The Concussion Awareness and Safety Recognition Policy outlines the training requirements for all Special Olympics Vermont coaches. And while it is realized that the implementation process (timeline) is challenging, Special Olympics Vermont knows ALL coaches will accept this challenge and complete requirements as outlined for the safety of the athletes
  10. Does the Concussion Awareness and Safety Recognition Policy apply to Unified Partners?
    • Yes, Unified Partners who are suspected of having a concussion are subject to the Return to Play guidelines as outlined in the policy.