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Okla. House Votes Down Expansion of Youth-Concussion Law

The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted against passage of a bill Tuesday that would have expanded the scope of its original youth-concussion law to require mandatory annual concussion training for coaches and establish penalties for school officials who don't follow the law.

Oklahoma's original youth-concussion law, passed back in May 2010, requires parents or guardians to sign a concussion-information form before their child is allowed to participate in school-based athletics; mandates the removal from play of any child suspected of having sustained a concussion during a practice or game; and requires any student-athlete removed from participation for a suspected head injury to obtain medical clearance from a licensed health-care provider before returning. It did not, however, include any mandatory concussion training for coaches, referees, or other school officials.

The new bill, which the House rejected by a vote of 45-39, would have required coaches and officials or referees to undergo annual concussion training. It also would have established minimum penalties for coaches, referees, and licensed athletic trainers who knowingly violated any of the law's provisions. Additionally, had the bill passed, the rules regarding removal from play would have extended to cover youth-sports organizations as well as school-based sports.

Lauren Long, who helped lead the group that researched and wrote the bill, expressed her dismay toward the House vote to The Oklahoman.

"We worked extremely hard on making sure that this piece of legislation was up to date in terms of research, management, and overall protocol for how sport-related concussions should be handled," Long said. "It's very disappointing to see that Oklahoma will remain one step behind the rest of the country when it comes to youth sports and concussion safety."

According to an analysis of all 50 states' youth-concussion laws released by the Education Commission of the States earlier this year, roughly half of states require coaches to complete a concussion-management training (some annually, some biannually), and 80 percent require coaches to receive information on recognizing concussions. Laws in 13 states extend coverage beyond public school sports to private schools or youth athletic leagues.

With the failure of SB1790, Oklahoma remains in the minority when it comes to educating coaches about the risks of concussions. The bill passed the Senate, 32-13, before falling in the House earlier this week.

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