Jul 21, 2017
Expanded Reach

In Montana, youth athletic organizations are now required to do more to educate coaches and parents about concussions. This change is due to an updated version of HB 487 being signed into law. Commonly referred to as the Dylan Steigers Act, the bill was originally introduced in 2013 following a local college student’s death.

Under the new legislation, coaches working with youth athletic programs have to take an hour-long online training program about concussion treatment, signs, and symptoms. This requirement extends to coaches from youth organizations, such as the YMCA, as well as nonpublic schools. Previously, this mandate only applied to coaches from school sports programs.

“(The goal) was to get (athletic) groups to develop a policy (and) continue to educate them about the risk of concussions and make sure those kids are pulled if a concussion is suspected, so that they return safely,” Val Moody, PhD, LAT, ATC, CSCS, Program Director and Professor in the Athletic Training Program at the University of Montana, told NBC-Montana. “We need to follow protocol to make sure that it is safe for our kids not only to get back onto the playing field, but, more importantly, to get back into their schools and just doing day-to-day living.”

Supporters of the bill have advocated for the update to expand to youth sports organizations due to the high incidence of concussions resulting from soccer, rugby, lacrosse, hockey, and rodeo. These youth sports are often run through organizations other than a school.

“The first response I usually get (from athletic organizations) is, ‘Well, are we liable if we have a policy?’ and I always (say), ‘Are you liable if you don’t?'” said Dr. Moody. “I would rather have something in place to protect that kid from the dangers of concussions, rather than not having anything in place.”

The updated bill also requires athletic organizations to provide concussion education to parents. With the added education about the danger of concussions — particularly for children, as their brains need more recovery time than adults — Dr. Moody hopes this will help shift away from the “shake it off” mentality.

“It’s hard to change the culture of sport. We know that the tough mentality of, ‘I’m going to play through it,’ or, ‘It’s not that big a deal.’ We deal with that all the time,” said Dr. Moody. “If we can (start from a young age and) get people to realize that, then I think the ability to maybe change some of those cultural beliefs — this is going to be a good step for us.”

Getting the bill signed into law took a good deal of collaboration between many state and local agencies. At the end of the day, it won’t be an added cost for the youth sports organizations — just some extra paperwork and resources.

“In this instance, Democrats and legislators came together and said, ‘What can we do to better protect our kids?'” Montana Governor Steve Bullock, who signed the bill into law, told NBC-Montana.

“If we can help one more family not go through what we went through, that’s always been my wife and I’s goal,” Tom Steigers, the late Dylan Steigers’ father, told NBC-Montana.

Image by Sgt. Bailey Kramer

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