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House Democrats Reintroduce Federal Student-Athlete Concussion Legislation

A bill reintroduced by two House lawmakers this week would for the first time establish national standards for the management of concussions sustained by public school student-athletes.

The Protecting Student Athletes From Concussions Act, introduced by Reps. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., and George Miller, D-Calif., would require any school that receives federal funding to establish and enforce a concussion-safety and -management plan. The plan must include education of students, parents, and school personnel about concussions, along with training of school personnel on evidence-based concussion safety and management.

Schools would also be required to establish a multidisciplinary concussion-management team to help student-athletes recovering from a concussion to reacclimate to academic and athletic activities. This team would help ensure that each student-athlete receives "appropriate academic accommodations aimed at progressively reintroducing cognitive demands."

A recent clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics encouraged schools to establish such teams as "every concussion is unique, and symptoms will vary from student to student, so managing a student's return to the classroom will require an individualized approach.

The legislation, if passed, would also require all public schools to post information on concussions both on school grounds and on their school websites. The information would include the risks of a concussion, how student-athletes should respond after sustaining a concussion, and the signs and symptoms of concussions.

Finally, the legislation would require any student-athlete who sustains a concussion during any school-sponsored activity to be immediately removed from participation. The student would require written clearance from a health-care professional before he or she could return to any athletic activities.

"Concussions are an unfortunate reality of competitive sports from the sandlot to the Super Bowl," said Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., the original sponsor of the bill, in a statement. "This legislation addresses the clear need for nationwide standards and new tools for students, coaches, and teachers on concussion prevention, management, and recovery."

Youth-sports safety advocates will undoubtedly be pleased to see the introduction of such legislation, but it's not the first time we've been down this road. Former versions of the bill were introduced in both 2010 and 2011. Neither version even made it out of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, however.  

The 2013 edition of the bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. GovTrack.US gives the bill a 4 percent chance of emerging from committee and a 1 percent chance of being enacted.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., introduced similar legislation back in late September. The National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), United States Soccer Federation, USA Football, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have all expressed support for the bill, per a statement from Durbin.

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