New state laws to protect youth from concussions

“I know they’ve done a lot of brain trauma research over the last five years, and I think it’s a good thing that we all become educated on those issues.” – Monty Price Reed City Football coach

LANSING – Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Oct. 23 to protect young athletes from sports-related concussions.

“Research consistently has shown that concussions are a serious health threat to athletes,” Snyder said. “Coaches and parents need to be proactive in recognizing the signs of a concussion so we can protect injured children and teens from any further complications.”

More than 140,000 high-school athletes sustain a concussion each year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. The brain does not fully mature until people are in their mid-20s, and damage from multiple or untreated concussions can be severe. More than half of the states already have enacted laws to protect against youth concussions, and many others have legislation in the works.

The governor signed two bills to inform students, coaches and parents how to recognize a concussion. Senate Bill 1122, sponsored by state Sen. John Proos, requires the Michigan Department of Community Health to develop both educational materials and a concussion awareness program.

“As a father of three children, each involved in multiple sports and physical activities, my goal with this legislation was to ensure the health of our young athletes is always the top priority,” Proos said. “With the number of children suffering sports-related concussions rising at an alarming rate, we must help ensure parents, coaches and athletes can recognize the symptoms of these injuries and act in the athlete’s best interest.”

Reed City High School athletic director and long-time football coach Monty Price supports the idea of having educational materials available for athletes and coaches alike.

“I know they’ve done a lot of brain trauma research over the last five years, and I think it’s a good thing that we all become educated on those issues,” he said.

House Bill 5697, sponsored by state Rep. Thomas Hooker, requires that all youth sports coaches, employees and volunteers participate in the concussion awareness program, as well as provide the educational materials to athletes. Coaches also must immediately remove any youth athlete suspected of having sustained a concussion from competition, and only allow their return with written clearance from a health professional.

“As a former football and wrestling coach, I am proud to focus efforts to help protect young people from traumatic brain injuries caused by concussions,” Hooker said. “Our goal is to make Michigan a safe place to play sports.”

Price said requiring athletes who have sustained concussions to have written approval by a doctor before returning to play was something the school already did, prior to the legislation.

“Under MHSAA policy, we’re currently already doing that. If an athlete is suspected to have a concussion, they can not return unless they have clearance from an MD,”Price said.

Athletes in any sports where contact with other players is possible have the potential of sustaining concussions, Price said, noting his daughter got a concussion while playing basketball.

“She fell down and hit her head on floor. In football we have helmets to protect players, but in other sports they don’t have anything,” Price said.

Price said teaching appropriate tackling techniques in football, such as encouraging players to keep their head up, is a way to diminish the potential of concussions.

“Even with proper technique, we still have concussions because you can’t control what happens on the field. It’s the nature of the beast,” Price said. “The key is education. It’s learning how to prevent concussions and what to do if it does happen. We want to keep out kids safe. I certainly endorse (legislation) that would do that.”

The bills now are Public Acts 342 and 343 of 2012.

Visit www.legislature.mi.gov for more information on the bills.