[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – After receiving endorsements from six national professional and collegiate sports organizations, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation to strengthen K-12 schools’ procedures for preventing, detecting, and treating student-athletes who suffer concussions while competing. The National Federation of State High School Associations estimates that about 140,000 students playing high school sports suffer concussions every year though many go unreported.
“Young athletes are at the greatest risk for sports-related concussions, and we need to make sure we are doing all we can to protect them while they compete. Illinois is a leader on this issue, but not all states have been so forward-thinking,” said Durbin “My bill sets, for the first time, minimum state requirements for the prevention and treatment of concussions to ensure students, parents and coaches have the information they need to effectively address head injuries. Having so many major national sports organizations – the NFL, NHL, NBA, US Soccer, USA Football and the NCAA – and numerous nationwide health organizations as partners in this effort will help us continue to raise awareness about the long-term effects of concussions and how dangerous they can be if ignored.”
Durbin announced his intent to introduce the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act on the eve of the high school football season’s kick-off last month. Since then, the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA) United States Soccer Federation, USA Football and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have endorsed the bill.
“The NFL is proud to support the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act. We applaud Senator Durbin’s ongoing efforts to protect young athletes and look forward to further opportunities as we continue our work to promote youth sports safety,” said Adolpho Birch the NFL’s Senior Vice President for Labor Policy and Government Affairs.
Additional organizations endorsing Durbin’s Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act include: the American College of Sports Medicine, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National PTA, the American Academy of Neurology, Easter Seals, The Arc, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the Korey Stringer Institute, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the Learning Disabilities Association of America.
Durbin’s legislation will raise awareness of the danger of concussions among student athletes by directing states to develop concussion safety guidelines for public school districts that include posting educational information on school grounds and school websites about concussion symptoms, risks and recommended responses for student athletes, parents, coaches and school officials.
The bill also institutes 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. Such a policy was recommended by a panel of team physicians convened by the American College of Sports Medicine in 2011. Additionally, the American Academy of Neurology’s evidenced-based guideline on sports concussion, published in 2013, agrees with the “sit it out” policy and represents the latest literature on sports concussion. 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.
Durbin’s legislation builds on a comprehensive plan implemented by the Illinois High School Athletic Association, which governs interscholastic high school sports in the state. Illinois law requires school districts to educate students, families, and coaches about the nature and risk of concussions and requires student athletes to abstain from sports until they receive a medical evaluation and a letter of clearance from a licensed healthcare professional saying they can return. Unfortunately, many states lack such a plan or have implemented policies that do not adequately identify and protect children who sustain a concussion.
All states would have five years from the bill’s enactment to issue guidance to schools about concussion plans. 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.