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Conn. Lawmakers Advance Bill to Study Student-Athlete Injury Rates

The Connecticut joint committee on public health recommended passage of a bill last week that would require the state to establish a two-year pilot program to study the incidence of injuries in high school sports.

If passed, the bill would have Dr. Jewel Mullen, the state's commissioner of public health, work with Commissioner of Education Steven Pryor to establish the pilot program in 20 high schools. Each school would receive a $1,500-per-year grant to monitor the occurrence of injuries within interscholastic sports and report that data back to Mullen, with concussions singled out as a point of interest.

The Connecticut committee on public health initially voted in favor of the bill on April 1 by a 19-9 margin. The legislation then traveled to the legislative commissioners' office, where the office of legislative research and office of fiscal analysis spent two weeks conducting an evaluation. On April 17, state Sen. Terry Gerratana, the Senate's chairperson of the committee, reported the committee's recommendation to pass the bill to the entire chamber.

The legislation would cost the state approximately $125,000 for each of the next two years, according to the state's office of fiscal analysis. That includes $30,000 each year for the grants to the schools, roughly $32,000 for a part-time health program associate who would manage the request-for-proposal process and the grants awarded to each school, and just over $38,000 for a part-time epidemiologist who would develop data-collection forms and analyze the injury data being reported back from each school.

Dr. Mullen would be allowed to tap into the private sector or federal government sources for the grants being distributed to schools, according to the bill. Within a year of the passage of the bill, she would have to report findings from the pilot program back to the state's joint committees that work with public health and education issues.

Back in 1993, the state established an office of injury prevention within the Department of Public Health, according to the joint favorable report from the public health committee. In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded a five-year grant to the office to collect and analyze injury data, but the CDC didn't re-up the grant in 2010, causing the office to close. The department doesn't have enough resources to start a pilot program tracking school-athletics injury data on its own, according to the report.

Injury data for high school student-athletes are gathered nationally through an online data-collection tool known as High School RIO for the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study. The epidemiologist under Connecticut's proposed legislation would work with the RIO system to report statewide high school athletic injuries.

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