Durbin Urges Schools Across the Nation to Develop Concussion Safety Plans for Student-Athletes

Legislation Endorsed by NFL, NHL, NBA and NCAA

[COLLINSVILLE, IL] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today visited Collinsville High School to discuss legislation he recently introduced to strengthen K-12 schools' procedures for preventing, detecting, and treating student-athletes who suffer concussions while competing.


“Injuries are a part of all sports, but as we learn more about the long-term effects of concussions and how frequently they are ignored, it is clear we need to do more to confront this health risk, especially among student athletes,” Durbin said.  “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.  A doctor-recommended 'when in doubt, sit it out' policy would add additional protections.  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 and Missouri have been leaders in tackling this issue, but not all states have been so forward-thinking.”


The Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act 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.  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. 


“Concussions are not always easily diagnosed, and symptoms that might indicate concussion don’t always manifest themselves immediately,” Durbin said.  “Young athletes don't want to let their coaches or teammates down, so helping them – as well as coaches, school officials, and parents – recognize the signs and symptoms of concussion can go a long way toward prioritizing a player’s safety.”


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.


Student athletes in grades K through 12 are at greater risk or sports-related concussions than adults because their developing brains are more susceptible to injury.  The National Federation of State High School Associations estimates that about 140,000 students playing high school sports suffer concussions every year.  Though mismanagement of concussions increases a student-athlete's vulnerability to further injury and chronic cognitive issues, a 2010 study by the Government Accountability Office found that many sports-related concussions go unreported. 


Durbin's bill is supported by the National Football League, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Academy of Neurology.