Senate Education Committee Approves Tracy Bill to Protect Student Athletes with concussions

Legislation designed to protect student athletes who suffer concussions from risking further medical complications or death overcame its first hurdle this week with passage in the Senate Education Committee. Senate Bill 882, sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), ensures guidelines are in place to help coaches, youth athletic instructors and parents recognize a concussion and its symptoms in order to keep an injured player from risking their health by returning to competition too soon.

“This is a much needed bill,” said Senator Tracy, who has been a high school coach and NCAA basketball referee. “Education and instruction regarding concussions can help avoid a preventable tragedy.”

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that from 2001-2009, concussions among youth increased 60%, leading the agency to label concussion frequency as reaching “epidemic” proportions. Approximately 70.5% of sports-related emergency visits for traumatic brain injuries were among youth aged 10-19. Once an athlete has suffered an initial concussion, his or her chances of a second one are 3 to 6 times greater than an athlete who has never sustained a concussion.

"This legislation provides better protection for Tennessee's youth athletes by requiring a more uniform and formal approach to the treatment of concussions. We applaud the sponsors of the bill and urge you to support its passage during this legislative session. Parents, coaches and teachers will benefit from this measure. And, most importantly, so will our kids." said Adolpho Birch, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs for the National Football League (NFL).

Tracy’s bill requires schools and community youth athletics authorities where students are under the age of 18 to adopt guidelines based on those developed by the Tennessee Department of Health (DOH). The guidelines must include the nature and risk of concussions, training in recognizing signs and symptoms of head injuries, and the necessity of obtaining medical attention for injured youth athletes.

The legislation also requires that coaches, volunteers, and team medical providers complete a “concussion recognition and head injury safety education course” program that would be available on the DOH website, free of charge. Coaches, as well as parents, must then sign and return concussion and head injury information sheets annually to school administrators or directors for community organizations to show they have reviewed the guidelines.

In addition, schools and organizations must have a policy of removing youth who show signs of concussion from activity for medical evaluation by a team doctor or designated person. Youth cannot return to any activity or competition until evaluation and written clearance by a doctor who has either received training from the National Federation of State High School Associations or reviewed the CDC’s Concussion Toolkit for Physicians.

“This legislation ensures that everyone from coaches to parents understand the signs and symptoms of a concussion,” added Tracy. “Prompt medical attention is key to help these youth make a full recovery.”

Sports that lead to greatest frequency of concussions are football for males and soccer for females. Forty-three states and Washington, D.C. have passed laws protecting athletes under the age of 18 from returning to play too soon after suffering the effects of a concussion.

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