Durbin Introduces Bill To Strengthen Youth Sports Concussion Safety

Legislation would strengthen procedures for preventing, detecting, and treating concussions in K-12 athletes

Endorsed by the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, & NCAA

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act, legislation that would 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. The National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have endorsed the bill.

“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.”

Additional organizations endorsing Durbin’s Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act include: 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. 

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 would 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. 

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.