Ill. senator introduces bill to improve protection for athletes

An Illinois senator on Thursday introduced legislation that would improve the process of identifying and treating concussions in young athletes nationwide.

Sen. Dick Durbin has introduced legislation to improve concussion oversight in the nation's high schools.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced legislation to improve concussion oversight in the nation’s high schools.

The Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act is endorsed by the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and NCAA. It would require states to improve concussion education in K-12 schools, penalizing those that fail to do so within five years of the bill’s enactment.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin called Illinois a leader on concussion-related issues, saying it was time for other states to adopt similar policies.

“It used to be called just getting your bell rung, but we now know that a concussion is something that should never be taken lightly,” Durbin said. “Research has shown the serious long-term health risks associated with concussions in youth sports. I’m glad to say that Illinois has been a leader on this issue, but it’s time for all states to play under the same rules. My bill sets, for the first time, minimum state requirements for the prevention and treatment of concussions. These common sense safety requirements will help effectively address head injuries in our youth. We must ensure students, parents, and coaches have the information they need to effectively evaluate these types of injuries.”

According to Durbin’s office, the legislation would:

• Institute a “when in doubt, sit out” policy that requires students suspected of sustaining a concussion to end their participation in the athletic event for the remainder of the day. The bill asks schools to notify a student’s parents of an injury and obtain a written release from a health care professional before the student may return to play.

• Raise awareness of the danger of concussions among student-athletes by directing states to develop concussion safety guidelines for public school districts. Those guidelines include posting educational information on school grounds and school websites about concussion symptoms and risks and recommended responses for student-athletes, parents, coaches and school officials.

• Require all states to issue guidance to schools about concussion plans within five years of the bill’s enactment. A state that fails to do so within that timeframe will forfeit 5% of its federal formula funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the first year with an additional 5% forfeited the second year of noncompliance.

The legislation is based on similar requirements put in place in Illinois, where districts are “required to education students, families and coaches about the nature and risk of concussions.” It also stipulates that athlets abstain from sports until they’re evaluated and cleared by healthcare professionals.

The National Federation of State High School Associations estimates that nearly 140,000 high school students suffer sports-related concussions every year, though many are unreported.

The American Academy of Neurology, American College of Sports Medicine, Illinois High School Association, Korey Stringer Institute, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Sports Fitness and Industry Association and the National Council of Youth Sports also support the proposal.

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