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South Carolina Becomes 49th State With Youth-Concussion Law

South Carolina has become the 49th state with a youth-concussion law on the books.

The legislation, which mirrors many other states' laws, was signed by Gov. Nikki Haley on June 7. It went into effect immediately, which means student-athletes will be subject to the new policy starting in the 2013-14 school year.

The new law requires all school districts to distribute a concussion-information form to all coaches, volunteers, student-athletes, and the parents and guardians of student-athletes. Before a student-athlete is allowed to participate in any school-based sports, he or she must have a parent sign the information sheet and return it to the school.

If a coach, athletic trainer, official, or physician suspects a student-athlete has sustained a concussion either during practice or competition, the student-athlete must be removed from play under the new law. He or she may return to play that day if and only if an athletic trainer, physician, physician's assistant, or nurse practitioner evaluates the athlete and determines that he or she has no signs or symptoms of a concussion.

If a student-athlete who's removed from play does exhibit signs or symptoms of a concussion, he or she must obtain written clearance from a physician before returning to play. The law specifically notes that cheerleaders are included in the definition of "student-athlete" for the purposes of the regulations.

"In the past, a lot of times a coach would say, 'Oh, you just got your bell rung. Get back in there,' " said Craig Clark, president-elect of the South Carolina Athletic Trainers' Association, to the Associated Press. "Now with the education component, we hope coaches and parents have a better understanding of the signs and symptoms and realize it's serious."

One thing the law lacks, however, is any sort of specified mandatory concussion training for coaches, officials, or athletic trainers. Just over half the states with youth-concussion laws include some form of mandatory training for coaches, according to a study published earlier this year, while a handful of states additionally require concussion training for athletic trainers and officials.

With South Carolina's enactment of this legislation, Mississippi is the only state without any form of youth-concussion law. Three youth-concussion bills were introduced during the 2013 legislative session, but none advanced past committees.

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