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Student-Athlete Concussions Back on Lawmakers' Radar

Yesterday, lawmakers re-introduced legislation to Congress that would force school districts to adopt concussion management plans that educate students, parents, and school personnel about concussion recognition, response, and prevention.

The legislation, titled the Protecting Student Athletes From Concussions Act, would require schools to post information about concussions on school grounds and on school websites. It would also emphasize a "when in doubt, sit out" policy for student-athletes.

Rep. Tim Bishop was the original sponsor of the bill; Rep. George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the Education and The Workforce Committee was the original co-sponsor. Bishop initially introduced the legislation to Congress in the fall of 2010.

Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, is in support of the legislation, as is the American College of Sports Medicine. The NFL began paying special attention to concussions this past season, forcing teams to hang posters describing concussion symptoms and with warnings of the potential long-term consequences.

The NFL's emphasis on concussions coincided with more frequent news about former football players suffering long-term brain damage, including the deceased Chris Henry. At the time of his death, Henry was found to have symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—a form of brain damage caused by multiple hits to the head. According to ESPN, Henry was never diagnosed with a concussion in his playing days at the college or professional levels.

Bishop and Miller weren't the only lawmakers in the U.S. to introduce concussion legislation on Wednesday, however. In Pennsylvania, state Senator Pat Browne and Rep. Tim Briggs introduced companion bills that would require student-athletes who suffer concussions to obtain clearance from a doctor before returning to play. The bills would also require students and parents to sign a "concussion awareness sheet," to help educate both parents and students about the risks they face.

Briggs cited data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention that says an estimated 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year.

Pennsylvania certainly isn't the first state to introduce this type of legislation. Just last year, a similar bill was introduced in New Jersey. N.J. Gov. Chris Christie signed the legislation into law this past December. Wyoming is also considering similar legislation.

Washington state got the ball rolling on concussion legislation back in 2009, implementing a law that's still seen as a model for other states. Overall, 10 U.S. states currently have legislation that control when a student-athlete who suffered a concussion can return to the playing field.

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