As a father of two active children, I can’t imagine anything scarier than learning of a medical concern with one of my kids stemming from a head injury. My fear comes from personal experience. In February 1994, my parents were in that very scenario, and they were told I suffered a head injury while sledding, and that I was headed to the hospital for evaluation.

I was diagnosed with my first concussion following that sledding accident several years ago. Thankfully there are no lingering symptoms or side effects today, and my last one was nearly 20 years ago. Being an active teen, I suffered two additional concussions in the following years. And with new information and a better understanding of head injuries, I realize how fortunate I am to not have lingering effects.

It wasn’t that long ago that sports fans and commentators referred to concussions as simply “having your bell rung” or “getting dinged,” and in herculean fashion, athletes would be celebrated for getting back in the game and leading the team to victory following their head injury.

The “concussion protocol” in professional sports did not exist when I was in school, so the increased focus on brain health is a relatively new development. For athletes and fans in the stands, getting back on the field ASAP was the top priority before we started taking head injuries more seriously. With more information about concussions and the side effects, we take concussions much more seriously today.

Governor Kim Reynolds recently proclaimed August as Concussion Awareness Month in Iowa, and the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA), with support from the Iowa Farm Bureau, its title sponsor, announced the HeadStrong Concussion Insurance program for participants in IHSAA-sanctioned sports for the 2018-2019 school year. Former athletes, who are now parents ourselves, see what an incredible benefit this is.

Alan Beste, executive director of the IHSAA, hopes that the HeadStrong Concussion Insurance program removes the financial barriers students and their parents may face when seeking care for a concussion. The HeadStrong program provides “first-dollar” insurance coverage for student-athletes, including a $0 deductible and $0 co-pay coverage for concussion assessment and treatment. The plan serves as a secondary or excess policy to other primary and collectable insurance. In the case of a student athlete without insurance coverage, the HeadStrong policy becomes the primary payor.

This HeadStrong program announcement is great news for athletes and parents as it ensures a parent’s main concern (and rightly so) following a serious head injury is getting their student athlete the care and evaluation they need. The program alleviates a parent’s burden of worrying about the cost of care, so their only focus is on their child. As a dad of two likely future high school athletes, I hope the HeadStrong program is something we won’t have to use, but it’s great to know it’s there for all high school students participating in the practice or play of IHSAA-sanctioned interscholastic sports.

By Andrew Wheeler. Andrew is Iowa Farm Bureau's Public Relations Coordinator.