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House Lawmakers Seek to Support Student Athletes' Bill of Rights

Members of Congress have introduced a bill that aims to recognize and support the newly introduced Secondary School Student Athletes' Bill of Rights from the Youth Sports Safety Alliance.

The alliance unveiled its new 10-point youth-safety document at the fourth Youth Sports Safety Summit earlier this month in the District of Colubmia. Among other things, the bill of rights calls for student-athletes to be coached by those trained in sport-specific safety; safe, clean playing surfaces for students; and a culture where "playing through pain" is "unacceptable unless there has been a medical assessment."

The legislation introduced on Friday by Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) calls for the House to "express support for the principles and values set forth" in the bill of rights. If approved, the House would also "express support for secondary schools that have successfully implemented programs, policies, and practices to emphasize and encourage student-athlete safety and well-being."

In short, the bill doesn't actually do anything beyond recognizing the Student Athletes' Bill of Rights as an admirable ideal. (Schools won't lose federal funding for not following the bill of rights, for instance.) However, it's a signal that youth-athlete safety is at least on the mind of a handful of federal lawmakers, not just President Barack Obama.

"This is a step forward that we've been waiting for with regards to sports safety for years," said Jim Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association, over the phone this morning. "It is an acknowledgement to us that the United States Congress is aware of the issue and that our needs for athletic trainers and adequate and appropriate medical care in our secondary schools, that they know about that and they're willing to help us out with an issue that's quite frankly a public health issue. When you've got a number of kids who get injured every year, it's an issue. We're very excited and appreciative of Rep. Gerlach for his help with the matter."

The bill, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), has been referred to the House education committee, as well as the energy and commerce committee.

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