|JEFFERSON CITY – Student athletes are one step closer to having to sit out of play after suffering a concussion until a doctor signs off on their return thanks to an awareness and prevention initiative by several state lawmakers and the National Football League (NFL).
Former linebacker for the World Champion St. Louis Rams and current Lincoln University Head Football Coach Mike Jones testified in support today of House Bill 300 before the Senate Committee on Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families. The bill would create the “Interscholastic Youth Sports Brain Injury Prevention Act” to educate and protect student athletes from the risks of concussions and other brain injuries.
“We are learning today that returning to play with a sprained ankle or a swollen knee is one thing; returning to play before being fully recovered from a concussion or other head injury is a great deal more serious,” said Jones. “Young athletes and their parents need to be educated on the symptoms and dangers of concussions and should not be allowed to return without medical clearance. That is what the bill before us is about.”
Senate Leader Robert N. Mayer (R-Dexter) is handling the bill in the Senate and noted the bill’s aim is to better protect student athletes from brain injuries.
“As I always heard growing up, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” said Mayer. “Today, we know that some brain injuries are the result of young athletes continuing to play a sport after they have suffered a concussion. By educating them, their parents and coaches, we can better protect these students from life-altering brain injuries.”
Under the bill, student athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion or brain injury must stop play for at least 24 hours and could not return without written permission from a medical professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussions. Plus, student athlete’s parents would be required to sign a concussion and brain injury information sheet prior to participation in any practice or competition.
“With up to 18 percent of all high school sports being contact sports and with up to 19 percent of all the athletes in those contact sports receiving a concussion (over 62,000 of them),” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger (R-Lake St. Louis), “I feel it is high time our coaches, athletes and parents know the symptoms of a concussion - when in doubt set them out.”
The NFL is supportive of the awareness and prevention effort, helping champion similar legislation in at least 10 other states this year.
“The league has strict return-to-play guidelines that apply to some of the best athletes in the world,” said Kenneth Edmonds, director of Government Relations and Public Policy for the NFL. “We believe a similar approach is necessary when dealing with some of the youngest athletes. This legislation does that.”
The act requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to work with school boards, the Missouri State High School Activities Association, and an organization that provides support services for brain injuries to implement educational information for youth athletes on the risks of concussions and other brain injuries. The department and organizations must develop guidelines, and forms to educate coaches, student athletes, and their parents or guardians on the nature and risks of concussions and other brain injuries by the end of the year. The materials they produce must include information on continuing to play after a concussion.
Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) sponsored a similar bill in the Senate and said the sooner these common sense guidelines are put in place, the sooner we will reduce the number of brain injuries stemming from contact sports.
“Education is half the battle,” said Schaaf. “The more our student athletes, their parents and coaches know, the better decisions they will make when faced with the symptoms and possible life-long consequences of continuing to play after sustaining a concussion.”
Brain injury and trauma awareness advocates also testified in support of the bill. House members Rep. Jay Barnes (R- Jefferson City) and Rep. Zachary Wyatt (R-Green Castle) were also present and introduced similar legislation in the House earlier this year.
A passing vote by the Senate committee would recommend the bill be debated by the full Senate.