As Upward Bound Turns 50, Program at UMBC Evolves to Serve Students

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When Brittany Walker was accepted into the Upward Bound program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 2004, she did not expect to stay for 10 years.

Walker now works as a full-time academic counselor with the program, which aims to provide support for high school students from low-income families, and prepare them for college. Upward Bound’s goal is to equip students with skills in leadership and communication, as well as academic instruction.

As Upward Bound celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, educators at schools like UMBC are introducing new ideas to serve the changing needs of low-income students. For example, since 2007, the UMBC program has trained students like Walker to serve as mentors for younger peers.

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Brittany Walker, a former peer leader at the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s Upward Bound program, now works there full-time as an academic counselor. (Capital News Service photo by Stephen Waldron)

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to become a leader and see how it goes,” Walker said. “So when I got in the real world, I could be a great leader.”

Walker was a senior in high school at the time, and among the first students to train as a peer leader.

Walker said older students would rarely socialize with underclassmen. For her, the peer leadership program was a way “to bring everyone together as one.”

It also gave her valuable leadership experience.

Known as peer group connection, the goal is to provide younger students with a mentor close to their age, while teaching older students leadership skills.

“It gave students an opportunity to speak out,” Walker said, “and be themselves without fear of being judged.”

Upward Bound serves 826 students in Maryland, according to the U.S. Department of Education. UMBC’s program includes roughly 140 students, drawing from schools in eastern Baltimore and Baltimore County.

The program, which is federally funded and serves almost 60,000 students nationwide, is required to provide academic instruction in areas like math, science and foreign languages. Students also receive career and academic counseling.

Peer group connection is a relatively new addition to Upward Bound, which was signed into law in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Corris Davis, director of UMBC’s program, has worked with Upward Bound since 1995. She said that after seeing how students and their environment have changed during her tenure, she recognized that the program must evolve.

“When I see a ninth-grader now compared to a ninth-grader 15 years ago, they’ve seen so much more of the world,” Davis said.

This, according to Davis, is one of the biggest issues that counselors and program coordinators face in order to engage with students.

“Some things are difficult because we’re trying to fit into the same models we’ve always had with students who are facing different challenges,” Davis said.

Davis led a panel on her program’s experience with peer leadership at the Council for Opportunity in Education’s annual conference in Washington this week.

The conference gathered educators nationwide for presentations on Upward Bound and other federal programs aimed at helping low-income students, known as TRIO services.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., spoke at the conference, emphasizing that expanding opportunities for education is an important way to bolster the economy.

“You know who I think about when I think about job creators?” Durbin said. “Teachers.”

Davis’ panel at the conference also featured Christine Harris and Dr. Margo Ross, both officials from the Center for Supportive Schools. The organization developed the peer group connection curriculum being used at UMBC.

Harris is an alumna of Upward Bound, and served as an academic tutor for the program. Before peer leadership was introduced, Harris felt the older and younger students were drifting apart.

She believes the initiative has changed the atmosphere of the program as a whole.

“Now that (peer leadership) is part of what Upward Bound does, there has been a cultural shift,” Harris said.

Still, Davis believes her program could be more effective if students were enrolled at a younger age. Upward Bound is currently limited to students who have completed eighth grade.

Davis said today’s 14-year-olds are growing up faster than 14-year-olds in 1964.

“When we’re starting in ninth grade, we don’t have time to give them the skills and resiliency they need to succeed in college,” Davis said.

Maureen Hoyler, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education, also believes that Upward Bound must evolve in order to remain effective.

“We continually need to innovate. There’s no one answer,” Hoyler said. “We can’t keep doing what we were doing 50 years ago.”

Whether or not Upward Bound faces more changes in the future, Walker enjoyed her experience with the program. She completed a sociology degree in 2012, and is now working on her master’s at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

“I’ve been part of this program since 2004 and never left,” Walker said. “It’s been a great fit.”

By Stephen Waldron
Capital News Service

Cautious Optimism Over Maryland-India Trade

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Despite exports from Maryland to India decreasing by almost 15 percent in recent years, Maryland businesses are optimistic about growth in trade between the two ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington.

Modi, who was elected earlier this year, will make his inaugural trip to Washington Sept. 29-30. It comes amid a downward trend in Maryland and India trade following a period of stalled diplomatic relations between the U.S. and India.

However, Maryland businesses are hopeful, based on Modi’s priorities and a recent trade delegation from the state, that they can benefit from trade with one of the largest economies in the world.

Economic Ties

Maryland exports to India have decreased from $233 million in 2010 to $202 million in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. During the same period, imports from India fell from $465 million to $416 million, a drop of more than 10 percent.

But Maryland is looking to change that.

One sign is an upcoming Montgomery County delegation to India, said Dr. Vinod Jain, president and CEO at the Maryland-based India-US World Affairs Institute.

The delegation, which will be led by County Executive Isiah Leggett and leaves for India in November, is focusing on culture, education and business, Jain said.

Currently, trade between the two varies wildly from information technology to coffee. For example, the U.S. subsidiary of the Indian IT company Infosys has its headquarters in Rockville, while Eight O’ Clock Coffee, which has a production plant in Landover, was bought by the Indian company Tata Coffee in 2005.

Jain said the upcoming delegation would focus on improving trade and investment specifically in the biotechnology, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries.

The trip is looking to build on another Maryland trade delegation in 2011, when Gov. Martin O’Malley led more than 100 business leaders, educators and government officials to India.

It was the largest delegation to India ever sent from Maryland, and the first ever by a sitting Maryland governor. Jain believes it was among the largest sent by any U.S. state to India.

The trade delegation resulted in business deals worth almost $60 million being signed, a press release from the governor’s office said.

The hope among analysts is that trade delegations can overcome some of the hurdles in improving economic ties between the two.

Despite being the third largest economy in the world based on a metric known as the purchasing power parity (PPP), India ranks only 18 out of Maryland’s top 25 international trading partners in terms of exports from the state. That is well below exports from Maryland to smaller economies like Saudi Arabia and Belgium, according to data from the Census Bureau.

This can primarily be explained by the internal situation in India under the previous government led by Manmohan Singh, said Elisha Pulivarti, executive director at the Maryland India Business Roundtable.

“There were a lot of problems in India,” said Pulivarti, mentioning low investor confidence because of the perception of high corruption and bureaucratic red tape.

Based on 2013 data, India ranked 186 out of 189 countries when it came to enforcing contracts, according to the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking. Only Timor-Leste (East Timor), Myanmar and Angola ranked lower, all countries that have suffered major internal conflicts in the past decade.

However, there is optimism that the issues can be overcome and Modi’s trip can foster better trade relations between India and Maryland.

“Economic ties are No. 1 on the list,” said Milan Vaishnav, an associate at the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank.

One Maryland business that made the 2011 trip to India was Shah and Kishore, a Rockville-based immigration law firm.

Calling the delegation a success and saying the results from the trip would take longer than three years to have an impact on Maryland, Devang Shah, the firm’s managing partner, said the future for Maryland-India trade is likely to improve.

Much of the optimism is based on Modi’s reputation as a business-friendly leader willing to create investor-friendly policies, said Shah.

Diplomatic Tensions

But bilateral ties must overcome recent diplomatic tensions at the national level, said Michael Kugelman, senior program associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank.

“In recent months relations have suffered from some of their greatest tensions in years, and certainly since the early 1990s, when decades of turbulent bilateral ties yielded to a new era of cooperation,” said Kugelman, in an email.

Diplomatic relations stalled last year when an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her nanny.

While Khobragade was eventually released to India, Indians were furious over what they perceived as high-handed tactics used by U.S. authorities, including her being strip-searched.

The Indian government responded to the arrest by, at one point, removing security barricades in front of the U.S. embassy in New Delhi and refusing to meet a visiting U.S. congressional delegation.

The meeting between President Barack Obama and Modi is likely to also, at least initially, focus on publicly making the Indian prime minister feel welcome in the U.S., said Jain from the India-US World Affairs Institute.

In 2005, Modi, at that time the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, was the first person denied a U.S. visa under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. The primary reason were the riots in Gujarat in 2002 between Muslims and Hindus, which led to almost 1,000 people being killed.

While there was no evidence that Modi, from a Hindu nationalist party, was responsible for the killing of hundred of Muslims, “he was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time,” said David Mulford, U.S. ambassador to India from 2004-2009, in a statement soon after the visa rejection.

There is an expectation that Modi’s trip will focus more on “ceremony than substance” in order to overcome that incident, said Vaishnav, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Optimism Moving Forward

As the Indian economy grows under Modi, it is imperative Maryland position itself to be the “gateway into the U.S.,” said Shah, from the law firm.

India’s economy is expected to become a “global economic giant” by 2050, with a GDP of $ 34 trillion – which would be more than three times that of Brazil – according to the “World in 2050,” a report by the accounting firm Price Waterhouse.

Economic ties between the two are “becoming more and more important,” he said, with the hope being that Maryland can benefit from India’s expected growth.

By Idrees Ali
Capital News Service

3,000 Unaccompanied Immigrant Children In Maryland in 2014

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In an effort to help the almost 3,000 unaccompanied immigrant children who have arrived in Maryland this year, the state this week launched Buscando, a website designed to connect them and their caretakers with volunteers and resources.

Officials from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration debuted the website (http://buscandomaryland.com/) during a press conference at the Hyattsville Branch Library on Wednesday. Ted Dallas, secretary of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources, said Buscando (which means to look for in Spanish) is the newest phase in the state’s response to the needs of unaccompanied children in Maryland.

Buscando is designed to serve as a database of resources for the children and their caretakers. For example, users can type in their location and search for clothing, and a map is generated which shows contact information for nearby organizations that will provide clothes.

Organizations and individual volunteers can also sign up on the website to provide materials, or services like transportation or counseling.

The website was built by volunteer programmers from Code for Progress, Hear Me Code and the Tech Lady Hackathon.

Aliya Rahman, of Code for Progress, said the project was a chance for programmers to use their skills to make a difference in the community.

“The best technology is built for and by people affected by the issues,” Rahman said.

Roughly 2,800 unaccompanied children have arrived in Maryland in 2014, the fifth largest number in the country. The children have come primarily from Central America, fleeing violence in countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Anne Sheridan, executive director of the Governor’s Office for Children, described the project as a “labor of love.”

The first challenge, according to Sheridan, has been determining what kinds of resources are useful to children and their caretakers.

“We have to figure out what they need,” Sheridan said. “Then, it’s all about mechanics.”

Officials also highlighted other resources the state offers unaccompanied children, including a printed resource guide for people who do not have access to the website. Maryland also operates a 24-hour 2-1-1 phone hotline, which aims to provide immediate assistance and guide callers through the Buscando website.

The goal for Buscando is to efficiently deliver information and resources to the people who need them. Sheridan also said she wants children and their caretakers to know that the government is in it for the long haul.

“We’re a welcoming place, and we want them to know that help is available,” Sheridan said.

By Stephen Waldron

Maryland Campaign-Finance Complaints Stack Up as Election Nears

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The Maryland State Board of Elections is carefully reviewing the two complaints Maryland gubernatorial campaigns have filed against each other in the past two weeks.

But theirs are not the only electoral grievances filed with the state.

Anyone can file a campaign finance complaint, and they do: Maryland Board of Elections’ records of a dozen complaints this year show everyone from private citizens to disgruntled campaign employees are feeling aggrieved this election season. And the state prosecutor’s office has received many more.

In the gubernatorial race, GOP nominee Larry Hogan filed a complaint against Democrat Anthony Brown Sept. 4, charging that the lieutenant governor’s campaign coordinated with a super PAC by sharing the same political consultants. Brown filed his complaint on Tuesday, alleging his challenger’s campaign was underpaying for the use of a tour bus, which Hogan owns.

Larry Hogan, in a white shirt (center) standing in front of his campaign bus surrounded by supporters. Photo courtesy of the Hogan/Rutherford campaign.

Larry Hogan, in a white shirt (center) standing in front of his campaign bus surrounded by supporters. Photo courtesy of the Hogan/Rutherford campaign.

The question of coordination between candidates and political-fundraising groups is part of a larger national trend that has emerged since the rise of political action committees and has left campaign staff and election lawyers grappling with the legal consequences.

“The whole existence of super PACs depends on them being independent of the campaign,” said Larry Noble, counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan advocacy group.

Noble said that this has put the focus on what constitutes coordination.

“What we see is candidates appearing at events for their super PACs. We see common vendors between the super PAC and the campaign.”

Courts and election boards across the nation are trying to resolve the legality of these overlapping interests.

Jared DeMarinis, director of the Division of Candidacy and Campaign Finance at the Maryland State Board of Elections, said that concern about coordination between PACs and candidates is a 50-state issue.

With Election Day less than eight weeks away and a new poll from the New York Times/CBS showing Brown at 51 percent to Hogan’s 37, time is running short and pressure is rising for the candidates to scrutinize each other’s finances.

Hogan’s complaint accuses the Democratic candidate of illegally coordinating with a super PAC called One State, One Future by sharing the same political consulting firm, Martin-Lauer Associates.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony G. Brown (right) and his running mate, Ken Ulman. Photo courtesy of the Brown/Ulman campaign.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony G. Brown (right) and his running mate, Ken Ulman. Photo courtesy of the Brown/Ulman campaign.

The Baltimore-based firm has worked with other high-profile Democrats in the state, including Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Martin-Lauer Associates did not respond to a request for comment.

Brown’s complaint accuses Hogan of campaign finance violations including deceptive reporting and underreporting the cost of Hogan’s campaign bus.

The campaign pays Hogan, who owns the bus, $683.77 per month for its use as an office – which they say is the same amount he pays to finance the vehicle – according to the expenditure filings from Hogan-Rutherford.
Although Hogan’s campaign has not revealed what he paid for the bus, the Maryland Democratic Party alleges in its complaint that “online sales information indicates that similar models retail for between $97,000 and $225,000.”

And, the Maryland Democratic Party says, according to vendors, the $683.77 reflects what it would cost to operate such a vehicle per day, not per month.

The state’s campaign finance law states that the bus must be rented at a fair market value and the Democratic Party is accusing Hogan-Rutherford of underreporting Hogan’s in-kind contributions.

“Each of these cases, they are fact-based,” Noble said. “The motive for the complaint becomes irrelevant if it is a fact-based complaint.”

But Todd Eberly, assistant professor in the political science department at St. Mary’s College, said that there are political advantages to filing campaign finance complaints.

Hogan’s campaign is restricted by his decision to accept public financing, which means there are limitations on total spending and further rules on how the $2.6 million of public money is used.

In the case of the bus, if the elections board decides that Hogan’s campaign should be paying more, it would mean re-directing more of Hogan’s limited funds there instead of toward other expenses.

DeMarinis, with the electoral board, said that complaints at the gubernatorial level are not common, and are more often filed in other races across the state.

The State Board of Elections receives campaign finance complaints for state, county and Baltimore elections. Local election complaints are received by that municipality, said Alisha Alexander, elections administrator with the Prince George’s County Board of Elections.

Complaints of violations that appear criminal in nature are forwarded to the state prosecutor’s office, because the board of elections does not have the authority to conduct criminal investigations, said Nicolle Norris, senior assistant state prosecutor.

Her office has received about 150 complaints since the beginning of the year. They range from failures to file campaign finance reports on time to more serious violations that require deeper investigations, Norris said. Norris said that legal restrictions prohibited her from disclosing any complaints sent to her office.

Here’s a sample of complaints filed thus far this year with the Maryland State Board of Elections:

• A complaint alleges one candidate’s campaign committee donated $6,000, the maximum allowed, to another candidate, and later also paid for the second candidate’s direct mail, thereby exceeding the donation limit.

• A campaign staffer for a candidate for delegate disputed reimbursements for lodging. He also charged the candidate forged the campaign treasurer’s signature, among other complaints.

• In one case, the complaint stated that a candidate was added to the ballot without a valid campaign committee.

• One candidate in a Democratic primary filed a wide-ranging 20-page complaint requesting nullification of the election due to corruption among the media, non-profits, and the state board of elections.

For information about non-municipal campaign-finance complaints, visit the Maryland State Board of Elections online, at www.elections.state.md.us.

By Lejla Sarcevic
Capital News Service

Researcher Warns: Soccer Headbands, Mouthguards Don’t Prevent Concussions

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Parents of young athletes should be warned that some sports equipment manufacturers are trying to capitalize on concussion fears with claims that their gear can prevent head injuries, the director of the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln said during a recent interview.

Despite what some manufacturers claim, “there is no reviewed, known literature that says mouthguards or headbands prevent against concussions,” said Dr. Dennis Molfese, director of the brain center and scientific director of the Big 10/CIC-Ivy League Traumatic Brain Injury Research Collaboration.

Brain-Pad touts the impact-absorbing qualities of its protective headband on its website.

Brain-Pad touts the impact-absorbing qualities of its protective headband on its website.

The Federal Trade Commission has been cracking down on false claims made in mouthguard ads for the past few years. The FTC reached a settlement in August 2012 with Brain-Pad Inc., and its president, Joseph Manzo, prohibiting the company from claiming that its mouthguards can reduce risk of concussions. At the time, Brain-Pad’s website stated that they could.

Brain-Pad’s website now makes no such claim.

That November, the FTC sent warning letters to 18 sports equipment manufacturers whose product lines included mouthguards, ordering them to reword their product descriptions, according to Betsy Lordan of the Office of Public Affairs.

But now, Molfese said, companies are claiming that a “rubber band” that goes around the heads of soccer players prevents concussions. “There is no data for this claim,” he said.

Brain-Pad touts the impact-absorbing qualities of its protective headband on its website.

Brain-Pad, for instance, says on its website that its headband “reduces impact energy up to 50 percent” without demonstrating where the information was gathered. While the website doesn’t use the word “concussion,” the phrasing used can be misleading, Molfese said.

“We’re all concerned about fraud,” Molfese said. “Parents say, ‘My kid has a headband, why can’t they go back to play?’ And that’s because there is no fully preventative measure.”

When asked if Brain-Pad’s wording could be construed as deceptively advertising concussion prevention, Lordan declined to comment, stating the FTC doesn’t speak about individual companies unless announcing a complaint or order violation.

Manzo, meanwhile, was clear in delineating that his products don’t make any concussion claims. “Brain-Pad claims that its products are proven to reduce impact forces to the base of the skull; we say nothing about concussions. No one knows anything about concussions,” he said in a recent interview.

When asked if he thought the phrasing used on his site could be confusing to consumers that the headband reduces concussions, Manzo replied, “I don’t know. … I just know they’ll think it reduces impact forces.”

Molfese recently collaborated on a paper published by the National Academy of Sciences entitled, “Sports-Related Concussions in Youth: Improving the Science, Changing the Culture,” which discusses false marketing and deceptive language being used to take advantage of growing concussion awareness. Molfese says companies are using the growing notoriety of concussions to make a profit on their products that don’t actually help.

“We get 10 to 15 calls a week from parents asking about mouthguards and headbands and how they can help with their kid’s concussion,” says Molfese. “And that’s the danger.”

By Antonio Barbera
Capital News Service

Applying to College Following a Concussion: One Student’s Road Map

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Mia Dinardo, a senior at Frederick High School in Frederick County, doesn’t remember much about the soccer game Sept. 17 that led to a collision that knocked her face down into the grass, unable to get up.

She had to learn to deal with symptoms of the resulting concussion that kept her out of high school for six weeks — including headaches that strike when she reads and writes. She had to learn to fill out college applications despite that pain, including to her top choice, the University of Maryland.

But her experience proved the college application process and the coursework required for college can be completed even with some lingering concussion symptoms, she said. She had to marshal help from a variety of sources, though — including family, high school teachers and counselors. And she had to learn to advocate for herself.

Dinardo had originally planned to apply to five colleges, but she dropped the number to three when she found she couldn’t finish Penn State University’s and Florida State University’s applications. Essay writing had become difficult for her, she said.

Her final lineup was Miami University, Ohio State University and Maryland.

Dinardo said she made sure to add the story of her concussion into the extenuating circumstances section of the Maryland application — as instructed by Frederick High School guidance counselor Danielle Moore.

Moore said she also encourages high school students with extenuating circumstances to call college admissions offices with the information about their cases.

Colleen Newman, who has worked in the University of Maryland’s admissions office for four years and has been in the admissions field for eight, said it has been rare for applicants to include that they had a concussion. “I think it’s possible that they don’t think it’s important or that they aren’t sure what they should and shouldn’t share,” Newman said.

However, in the past three years Newman has seen an increase in students sharing their concussion details in their applications, she said. The details help admissions officers “to better put into context how a concussion may have impacted a student academically,” she said. They do not erase academic performance, but they allow a university to make an informed decision, Newman said.

Ohio State University, one of Dinardo’s other college options, does not have a similar avenue for students suffering a concussion to share their story in their applications. The university uses a common application — used by more than 500 colleges and universities — which does not ask for extenuating circumstances, said admissions counselor Polly Pinelli.

And not all believe those details should be shared in an application. Vincent Vanzuela of Collegewise, a division of The Princeton Review that provides college admission counseling services, said he does not think that concussion information should be included unless the student plans to play sports in college. The information is unrelated to a student’s academic plans, he said.

The college application may not be the only stumbling block after a concussion.

Keeping academic performance up to prepare for college sometimes requires high school administrative intervention, Moore said.

“I didn’t realize this till like last month that the staff had to have a big meeting about me, where they all had to discuss what classes I would have to take so I could graduate,” Dinardo said. The staff was discussing her 504 plan, she said.

The 504 plan refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that no one with a disability, even a temporary one, can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary or postsecondary schooling, Moore said.

The plan details the accommodations that will be needed for these students to have an opportunity to perform at the same level as their peers. For Dinardo that meant placing her in classes for her final semester that would fulfill her graduation requirements and fulfill the treatment requirements of her doctor, restricting her from anything that would cause a headache, like extensive writing.

“Yeah, the grades may drop a little bit, but that’s where the 504 plan steps in to make it equitable, so their grades aren’t affected too negatively,” Moore said.

“Luckily, I was taking film study, publications (yearbook) and tech theatre at that time, so my fourth class, AP human geography, was one of the only classes I had to struggle to catch up on,” Dinardo said.

Her human geography teacher made packets that summarized the lessons and allowed her to “cover most of the information with the least amount of work possible,” she said.

She had a more difficult time getting accommodations her second semester, she said. “I was taking AP literature, statistics and probability and AP Spanish. … Because I had gotten the concussion months before, none of my second semester teachers really believed me about the severity of my concussion, or they just assumed the symptoms had blown over, so I wasn’t very well accommodated the few times that I felt I needed to be,” Dinardo said.

She said her mom helped by reading some of her class material to her.

She finds school more difficult now, even with the medication she takes to manage her symptoms. “Before I was mostly straight As. I never really struggled with school. … Afterwards, I would still understand things, but I don’t think I test as well as I used to,” she said.

Despite the setbacks, Dinardo was accepted to all three of the schools she applied to. She said she plans to study criminology at the University of Maryland.

Her advice to others experiencing similar symptoms and hurdles?

“The best advice I feel like I can give is just to take it as an incredibly serious injury — whether it seems like one or not. I’ve had a few friends who have gotten concussions and just written them off as nothing, and that’s one of the things that worries me most, because it’s so dangerous,” Dinardo said.

By Michael-Ann Henry
Capital News Service

US Lacrosse Works Toward Standard for Optional Headgear for Girls

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As awareness of head injuries in high school sports grows, US Lacrosse is working with a national organization to develop a standard for optional soft headgear for girls’ lacrosse players.

“We’re in a process of developing a standard for headgear that’s specific to the women’s game,” said Melissa Coyne, director of the women’s game for US Lacrosse, the national governing body for youth, high school and national-level lacrosse. “It’s a long process. … We’re doing a lot of research with other groups including manufacturers, including independent labs.”

ASTM International, which develops standards for a wide range of materials and has a sports equipment group, is working with US Lacrosse to develop the standard for optional headgear based on the injury forces generated in girls’ lacrosse play.

“It’s not necessarily looking at a particular product or a particular material,” Coyne said. “It’s looking at what we’re trying to accomplish and then allowing manufacturers to design something around that performance standard.”

The only headgear women’s lacrosse players are now required to wear are protective eye goggles and mouth guards. They can’t wear facemasks, and they can’t wear hard helmets, with the exception of the goalie, who is required to wear a hard helmet. Other girls’ players may wear optional soft headgear — but there are currently no standards for that headgear.

Coyne, who is on the committee working with ASTM, hopes they will put a standard out for ballot by early summer, when an ASTM board will vote on it. She anticipates it will be a year before the standard is in place.

Some involved with the game hope the additional emphasis on headgear will raise injury awareness, and thus help with injury prevention.

But helmets may not solve a high incidence of concussions in both the boys’ and girls’ games.

“The larger conversation is that no matter what piece of headgear a player’s wearing in any sport, none of them prevent concussions,” Coyne said.

In their book “Concussions and Our Kids,” Dr. Robert Cantu and Mark Hyman write that while wearing hard helmets “virtually eliminat[es] skull fractures,” the helmets “should not be regarded as a solution” to preventing concussions. “Helmets offer little or no protection against accelerations” that twist and torque the head, causing the brain to shift inside the skull, they write.

National studies underscore that concussions are a risk in both girls’ and boys’ lacrosse — but only the boys are now required to wear hard, full-head helmets — along with a slew of body pads.

A 2012 study by The American Journal of Sports Medicine looked at high school athletes from 2008 to 2010 and found that girls’ lacrosse had a concussion rate of 3.5 per 10,000 athlete exposures — higher than the overall injury rate of 2.5 concussions per 10,000 exposures in all 20 sports studied. Boys’ lacrosse had the third highest concussion rate, with 4.0 concussions per 10,000 — behind boys’ football and boys’ ice hockey. Girls’ lacrosse had the fourth highest concussion rate on the combined boys’-girls’ list, followed closely by girls’ soccer.

In girls’ lacrosse, concussions usually resulted from player-equipment contact (55.9 percent), player-player contact (28.8 percent) and player-playing surface contact (11.9 percent), The American Journal of Sports Medicine study showed.

Coyne said protective gear differs for boys’ and girls’ lacrosse because their games are played differently.

“We have one sport, but we have two very different games,” Coyne said. “So the conversation is different for the men’s side and for the women’s side, because the mechanism of injury that occurs in the sport is very different.”

IN PLAY

The differences are clear in the rules of play. Boys are allowed to body check, meaning they can use their sticks to smack opposing players’ bodies in order to dislodge the ball. Girls are not allowed to hit other girls with their sticks.

Some boys’ defenders have a 6-foot-long stick. Every girl’s stick is the same length, about half that size.

“I would say to you that [women’s lacrosse players] don’t wear a men’s helmet for the same reason that a soccer player doesn’t wear a football helmet — it’s not designed for their game,” Coyne said. “So when we’re talking about protective equipment, which we’re always talking about for the women’s game, what we’re really looking for is something that’s game-specific.”

But some members of the lacrosse community point out that while the rules may not allow for full contact between female lacrosse players, that doesn’t mean potentially injurious plays don’t happen. Lacrosse balls are solid rubber and three inches in diameter. The sticks aren’t much longer than 3 feet but are made of metal and plastic and are swung around with passes and checks. Add the two together, and one wrong move can bring serious injury.

It’s these incidental plays that lead to concussions in girls’ lacrosse. Kathleen Lloyd is the varsity girls’ lacrosse coach at Bullis School in Montgomery County, Md., and said her team sustained an all-time high of seven concussions in the 2012 season – the last season before she took action.

Lloyd now requires her players to wear soft, rugby-style helmets, allowed under US Lacrosse rules. She said this season she has only seen about one concussion.

“Is it because of the helmets? I have no idea, but I do know there’s more awareness,” she said. “It’s become another piece of equipment for the girls. They never ask to not wear it.”

Still, some think that introducing any protective headgear into the girls’ game would change the nature of play — making it more aggressive.

Lauriann Parker, a first-year assistant coach for the girls’ junior varsity lacrosse team at Reservoir High School in Howard County, said girls shouldn’t wear helmets. “Having [helmets] would change the game completely. It wouldn’t be girls’ lacrosse.”

Carrie Smith, a third-year athletic trainer at Reservoir High School in Fulton, Md., said girls in hard helmets would probably feel more empowered to “get more physical.”

Lloyd doesn’t agree.

“[With the helmets] they’re not playing any differently or taking any chances they wouldn’t normally take,” she said. “They are not more aggressive. The helmets raise awareness” about injuries.

Could the difference of opinions stem from a lingering stigma against female athletes?

HISTORY

Men began playing modern lacrosse, a derivative of Native American combat-style games, in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t until 1926 that women played their first organized game in Baltimore.

Female athletes went years without any protective gear at all.

In 2005, female lacrosse players were required by US Lacrosse to wear protective eye goggles. In 2007, US Lacrosse mandated the goalie’s full body passing and hard helmet worn today; she is still the only player on the team with such protective equipment.

US Lacrosse says the women’s game “continues to be one of finesse and speed, using minimum equipment and prohibiting intentional body contact.”

While Lloyd took advantage of the option of wearing soft headgear, she is still sensitive to the other half of the debate and understands she’s only tending to the needs of her individual players.

“I’m not here to change the world, and I don’t want to tell anyone how [to play the game],” Lloyd said. “We’re not doing this to say, ‘Look at us.’ This is the least we can do to protect ourselves.”

The current focus on headgear mirrors some of the early discussions over protective eye masks and goalie equipment, leaving some to wonder where this will lead.

“I remember when the girls started playing with the goggles and everyone said, ‘What is this?’ ” Lloyd said. “The game has evolved. It is evolving. So who knows what will happen?”

By Tim Schwartz and Liz Lane
Capital News Service

Concussion Numbers Dip for High School Sports in Howard County

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Howard County Public Schools saw a 19 percent drop last school year in reported sports-related concussions, after numbers steadily rose for several years.

According to six years of data supplied by the school system, the 2012-’13 athletic season showed a significant drop in concussion numbers, for a total of 211 recorded for high school sports. That number is down by 50 from 2011-’12, when county athletic trainers recorded 261 concussions throughout the year.

About 10,000 to 13,000 athletes play sports in Howard County high schools each year, said Athletic Director John Davis.

Football took the top spot in the county’s concussion numbers–accounting for 294, or 26 percent of all reported concussions–during those six years. Reports of football concussions dipped from 55 to 45 from the 2011-’12 season to the 2012-’13 season, the data showed.

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Wrestling accounted for the next highest percentage of concussions, at 13 percent of the reported total for the six years. It was followed by boys’ lacrosse (at 10 percent for the six years); girls soccer and cheerleading (each at 8 percent); and girls’ lacrosse (at 7 percent).

Davis said various factors may have played into last year’s overall decrease in concussions — including limits placed in fall 2012 on full contact practices in football.

He said allowing only two days of full contact practices a week in football, as well as limiting fully padded practices to a few times a week, are some measures the county put in place to try to reduce concussions.

However, Davis said he and athletic staff are unsure if the overall drop in concussions is a trend or an outlier.

“We’re still waiting to see if that [drop in concussions] was an aberration,” he said.

The data showed some other interesting trends.

–Concussions made up about 5 percent of the injuries reported in the county public schools between 2007-08 and 2012-13, with 1,134 reported during the six-year period.

–Sprains and strains were the most common injuries reported for the six-year period, with 8,860 reported, or 37 percent of the total.

The data also showed that reported concussions rose nearly every year before 2012-’13. [The 2009-'10 year was the exception, when they dropped by 3.] Davis said the early increase in concussion reports likely came from more concussion knowledge.

“I think it’s the awareness,” he said. “It went way up after we started imPACT testing.”

The Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test is a baseline test administered to athletes in preseason and then again after athletes are suspected of sustaining concussions. It can help to diagnose a concussion and determine when an athlete safely can return to play. Howard County started imPACT testing in 2007, Davis said.

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Andrew McIntyre, assistant football coach at Reservoir High School in Howard County, said he thinks current rules and regulations are doing a good job of curbing concussions.

He said awareness needs to start from the top down; high-impact hits delivered by NFL players shouldn’t be celebrated on highlight reels.

McIntyre said if the pros start using safer tackling techniques, those will trickle down to lower levels of football, all the way to Pee Wee football. “Little kids need to learn proper tackling,” he said.

McIntyre said critics of teaching safer techniques think that will “take the football out of football.” But, he said, “You can still have football without the helmet-to-helmet hits and kill shots … that cause more damage than we know.”

McIntyre is also the head coach for Reservoir’s wrestling team. In Howard County, wrestling accounted for 13 percent of concussions during the six years.

McIntyre said concussions in wrestling are “inevitable,” unfortunately. “You can’t have equipment [like in football or lacrosse]; it makes the sport dangerous,” he said.

McIntyre said as in football, teaching correct techniques is important to keeping wrestlers safe. “Proper grappling, grabbing and holds,” he said.

As for some of the other high-concussion sports: Davis said cheerleading, which accounted for 8 percent of concussions in the county for the six-year period, is evaluated periodically to see what stunts are allowed and how high pyramids can be. He said limitations on heights and stunts are the key to preventing concussions in that sport.

By Max Bennett
Capital News Service

New Maryland Marijuana Law Explained

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Possessing small amounts of marijuana will not be a criminal offense in Maryland after Oct. 1. Offenders caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana will not be arrested, face jail time or receive a criminal record, under legislation approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley in April.

Under the new law, possession of paraphernalia remains a criminal offense that can lead to jail time. Someone caught with joint could be arrested and charged criminally not for possessing marijuana, but for the rolling paper surrounding it.

Watch the video to learn more about what the new law means for Maryland residents.

or linked to directly: Maryland Marijuana Decriminalization Explainer <

By DREW RAUSO and ALEXANDER GLASS