2011-10-13 / Local & State

Lawmakers Move To Address Student Concussions

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The state House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously approved new rules to govern how coaches and parents handle concussions and traumatic brain injuries sustained by Pennsylvania student athletes, requiring coaches to remove students from games if they exhibit signs of such injuries.

Under the bill, the departments of Health and Education would develop guidelines to limit when injured students would be allowed to return to the playing field, and an appropriate medical professional would have to sign off on the return.

The Safety in Youth Sports Act proposal also would require coaches to undergo training and would give parents and student-athletes more information about the risks of brain injuries.

Rep. Tim Briggs, DMontgomery, who worked on the legislation for several years, said he hopes it will help prevent injuries that can be devastating and carry lifelong implications. He said 31 states have adopted similar measures.

“Over the years, the mentality of head injuries in sports was to shake it off and get back in the game, and I wanted to make sure I played a part in protecting our most vulnerable resource, our children,” Briggs said on the House floor shortly after the vote.

The bill was sent back over to the Senate, which in June approved a nearly identical version. A Senate Republican spokesman said Wednesday the bill would probably go to Gov. Tom Corbett within weeks, and Corbett said he was likely to sign it.

Glenda White, a woman from the Harrisburg suburbs, told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg for Wednesday's edition that her daughter Elaina hurt her head during a field hockey game two years ago, but stayed in and played three more games despite a severe headache.

When the symptoms did not go away, she was evaluated by a specialist in concussions.

“At the time, I'd always heard from the coaches: `Suck it up, go on,”' White, who supports the bill, told the newspaper. “I almost felt ashamed as a parent that I didn't recognize the seriousness of it, and I do think that people need to be educated on what this is really about.”

Coaches who act according to the law would be immune from civil liability, but if they violate its provisions they could get suspended or eventually banned from coaching.

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