Pittsburgh youth football coach under scrutiny for treatment of concussions

The head coach of the Peters Township High School football team in Pennsylvania is facing a police investigation after parents reported he did not handle player safety, especially possible concussions, properly.

According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, whispers started to leak about the practices of coach Rich Piccinini in November 2011, when team physical therapist and trainer Mark Mortland, who also worked the previous 16 years as the head athletic trainer for the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, accused Piccinini of showing blatant disregard for player safety and overruling training staff decisions about the health of youth athletes.

"What I personally witnessed was the most deplorable, disrespectful and disgraceful behavior from a head coach in any sport I have ever seen," Mortland wrote in a letter to the school district's superintendent.

The school board did vote to reinstate Piccinini for his second year with the school, but the decision was not unanimous, as several members stated their reluctance to support the coach in light of the accusations surrounding him.

Toward the end of last month, the Washington County Police Department launched an investigation into Piccinini's handling of youth athletes who were suspected of suffering concussions. Some parents dispute the accusations of Mortland and other adults affiliated with the football program, and Piccinini himself denies any wrongdoing.

This investigation follows a decision last November by state officials to making Pennsylvania the 35th state in the country to institute laws regarding the proper treatment of concussions among youth athletes.

Coaches must make themselves aware of the hazards of compelling an athlete to compete after her or she has suffered a head injury. In addition, coaches and parents should outfit children with proper football helmets and baseball helmets that are designed to prevent injury.