Ron Cantley

Ron Cantley, current principal at Woodrow Wilson High School, reflects on his memories of the late Ross Hutchens during a discussion with fellow faculty members Thursday afternoon in the school cafeteria.

Brain-related injuries are front and center in sports circles, and in efforts to bring more attention locally, Woodrow Wilson High School in Beckley has introduced a new pilot program.

During Tuesday's Raleigh County Board of Education meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve a program brought forward by WWHS Principal Ron Cantley, in which Cantley proposed a new testing idea brought on by the school's partnership with Beckley-based Kyle Group LLC.

The group specializes in education, consultation, med-legal work and philanthropy related to sports and emergency medicine.

Cantley said the partnership would bring an online cognitive test to the table, in which Woodrow student athletes would be able to determine if they have a brain injury.

He ensures the results of the tests will be completely confidential and only the students and their parents will have access to the data. They can share the information with their health care provider, or even their coaches, if they so choose.

Cantley said he is confident the program will raise awareness.

"It will really help athletic coaches with their safe-play initiatives and help inform parents and students on issues that could help them make better medical decisions."

He said it is an initiative to continue to build a safer environment to students and maybe lessen denial in both parents and students.

When the idea was first brought to the school's staff, Cantley said he could not stress enough how important it was to push for the program to go further.

“In the absence of empirical data, it is easy to be in denial. When you have data though, denial becomes irrelevant," he said.

The assessment currently has a fee of $5, but Cantley said he is hoping to gain sponsorship for the program so students will not have to pay.

"Organizations would be doing our school a great service if they would sponsor us for this program, but if not, I know our school will come together to make it to where students will eventually not have to pay for the testing."

Cantley said the assessment is not a requirement for student athletes, but that he believes as time goes on, it could become mandatory.

"As of now, it's just a pilot program, but we are going to explore its benefits and time will tell."

— Email: jnelson@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH

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