Ohio to Start Pilot Preparticipation Project

By Staff

Athletic Management, 14.3, April/May 2002, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/am/am1403/bbohio.htm

When two football players in the state died last year, the Ohio High School Athletic Association was already well into planning a revision of its preparticipation physical exam (PPE) form. But such tragedies re-emphasized the need for such a review.

At the heart of the new program, which will be
launched in a pilot phase this spring, is a much more in-depth family-history questionnaire. But what is most innovative is that it will be accessible on-line via the state association's Web site, and the information gathered will be used to compile health data that the OHSAA hopes will help prevent future tragedies.

"The on-line questionnaire shouldn't take more than 20 to 30 minutes to fill out--not a lot more than the old form," says OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Deborah Moore, "but it's a much more detailed history than what's currently being used."

The program, which is modeled after one developed by Stanford University physician Gordon Matheson, will start out as a trial in 25 to 30 middle and high schools. The state association has allocated $50,000 for this initial phase, which is estimated to cost $100,000. Axia Netmedia, an Alberta, Canada, technology firm, will contribute the other half of the funding in services, including software development, technical management, Web hosting, and data analysis.

Student-athletes will answer an extensive questionnaire on-line. But rather than hav
ing them take the entire questionnaire to their doctors at the time of their physicals, the computer program will automatically generate several more streamlined forms. They include a medical release form consenting to a physical and release of information
to the school, the preparticipation form itself, and a summary of the student-athlete's medical history.

"The physician will no longer have to go through a question-and-answer format and pick out any red-flag areas," says Moore. "Instead, the summary that's produced
will alert the examining physician to any problem areas or things that may need some follow-up."

As a pilot program, the OHSAA will be looking to see if the Web-based form can be successful for large numbers of student-athletes. "We have to make sure it provides easy access for the students--
that they can easily go on-line and get the information," says Moore. "And parents have to buy into it as well. They'll be consenting not only for the students to participate but also for their data to be used as an aggregate for some research down the road.

"There are also privacy concerns some people have raised," she adds. "But, the databases are maintained separately--
the demographics are kept separately from the answers to the questions, plus everything is encrypted. Quite frankly, this kind of information is much more secure than paper-and-pencil information housed in files somewhere."

If the program is adopted permanently, the information gathered could be used to compile long-term epidemiological data to help spot health risks that aren't being caught by the current screens. In addition to Dr. Matheson, the OHSAA is working with an epidemiologist who will analyze the data over time.

"Down the road, we hope the information will result in better care for athletes," says Moore. For example, if there is an increase in certain injuries, the OHSAA may be able to determine any predisposing factors the athletes may have had, which will allow doctors giving future preparticipation exams the ability to spot athletes at risk.