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Schools Expanding Reach of Concussion Policies for Students

Now that a majority of states have enacted youth-concussion laws, schools are left to figure out how to comply with the new rules.

The N.J. state legislature, a few N.Y. schools, and one Mass. district have all recently decided to go above and beyond what their state's concussion law originally called for.

The school committee in Amesbury, Mass., passed an interim version of a policy that would require any student in marching band or going on a field trip to take a baseline concussion test, according to the Daily News of Newburyport. That way, if any of those students suffer head injuries, the school will be better equipped to evaluate the extent of the injury.

Eventually, the goal would be to require every student to take a baseline test, school committee member Bonnie Schultz told the paper.

Currently, no state requires schools to administer baseline tests to any students, by law.

Similarly, Niagara Falls (N.Y.) High School recently joined a few other local schools in an effort to make baseline concussion tests available to all their student-athletes, according to the Niagara Gazette.

The school has reached out to Dick's Sporting Goods to apply for funding for ImPACT baseline tests, athletic director John Forcucci told the paper. Dick's announced a partnership with ImPACT last year in which they'd team up to distribute 1 million free baseline tests to youth athletes.

"They do a good job with testing post-concussion, but if every kid had that baseline so we knew where they stood, it would make it a lot easier," said Niagara Falls hockey coach Stan Wojton to the paper.

And earlier this month in New Jersey, the state legislature gave final approval to a bill that requires the state department of education to include cheerleaders in its concussion program.

The new law, passed unanimously in both branches, extends the safety-training component of the concussion program to all cheerleading coaches, in both public and private schools.

"Cheerleading is competitive and can be as dangerous for students as high-contact sports like football," said state Rep. Craig J. Coughlin, who co-sponsored the bill. "Making sure trainers and coaches have the knowledge to recognize symptoms and when it's safe for a student to return to the sport will help keep student-athletes safe from further injury or even worse."

On one final youth-concussion note: The NFL and NCAA sent letters last week to 19 governors to support youth-concussion laws that take after Washington state's Zackery Lystedt Law.

The Lystedt Law, which the NFL considers model youth-concussion legislation, has three main components: Parents are required to sign a concussion information form before their child can participate in school sports; any student-athlete suspected of a concussion must immediately be removed from play; and student-athletes with concussions can't return to play until being cleared by a doctor.

Do you find it strange that the two organizations sent letters to 19 governors, while our concussion map says that 35 states (along with the District of Columbia) have already passed them?

The key here is the Lystedt Law. The current concussion laws in Wyoming, Idaho, Vermont, and Colorado don't measure up to all three components of the Lystedt Law, the NFL says.

Meanwhile, some experts would say that all states' youth-concussion laws have a ways to go.

With schools like these demonstrating a willingness to go the extra mile in terms of concussion prevention, those experts may soon get their wish.

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