Jan 29, 2015Progress for Concussion Legislation
In February, the House Judiciary Committee held a forum to discuss the handling of brain injuries on the collegiate and high school levels. At the meeting, college conferences were criticized for not adopting tougher return-to-play guidelines than what the NCAA recommends. Here is a roundup of the pending legislative efforts around the country.
Though there was some criticism, several individual states received kudos at the hearing, including Washington and Oregon, which have both adopted new laws in the past year that require concussed athletes to get a physician’s clearance before they are allowed to return to play. The laws also concentrate on proper education for coaches, athletes, and athletes’ parents.
Several other states have since followed suit. California, Connecticut, Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island are all either examining or have proposed legislation that would require an athlete who exhibited signs of a concussion to obtain written clearance from a physician before returning to play. And Maine lawmakers have established a working group to further explore the topic.
“We’ve ignored it for so long and now the baby boomer generation of athletes are coming to middle age and older adulthood and we’re seeing the effects that the bodily abuse has had on them over the years,” Missouri Representative Don Calloway, who filed legislation in his state, told the Associated Press. “You wonder what we could have done as a society or as leagues or just as citizens to perhaps have prevented some of that stuff.”
The NFHS is also working on its concussion guidelines. Beginning this fall, football players showing signs of a concussion must be removed from the game and cannot return to play until they are cleared by a healthcare professional. Previously, a player only had to be removed from play if he was unconscious.
At the NCAA level, the Playing Rules Oversight Panel has endorsed proposals from the Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports Committee that would require student-athletes to exit play if they display concussion symptoms and not allow them to return without a physician’s clearance. In addition, any athlete who loses consciousness would not be allowed to return to play for the rest of the day and until a physician’s clearance is obtained.
Pending clarification of procedure, including exactly who (athletic trainers, officials, coaches) would be able to deem if an athlete has displayed concussion symptoms, the rules are expected to be approved in time to take effect for the 2010-11 school year. The panel has already approved the addition of educational materials to the NCAA’s offerings, including videos and other educational materials.
On an even larger scale, the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, an advocacy group striving to create awareness for youth brain injuries, launched the Zackery Lystedt Brain Project in early February. The project is pushing for further research efforts related to concussions and wants all 50 states to follow the leaders in approving head injury safety legislation.
A piece of legislation called the Concussion Treatment & Care Tools Act (ConTACT Act) is aiming to do just that. Introduced in January, House and Senate bills are currently making their way through the legislative process.
The bills ask for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to create national guidelines addressing concussion safety in athletes ages five to 18, and for funds to be awarded to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so that it can disseminate information about the guidelines. The act also asks for preseason baseline and post-concussion neurological testing to be adopted at schools nationwide.
Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.