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Youth-Concussion Legislation Advancing Through More States

With 2013 state legislative sessions now well under way, a number of states are advancing youth-concussion bills.

In Tennessee, a state which currently has no such law on the books, the state Senate unanimously approved legislation by a 30-0 vote on Feb. 28. The bill requires parents to learn about concussions before their children can participate in extracurricular sports; the immediate removal of any student-athlete suspected of suffering a concussion from play; and student-athletes removed from play due to a suspected concussion to obtain written clearance from a health-care provider before returning to play.

Those three specific characteristics mirror Washington state's Lystedt Law, which the National Football League considers to be model youth-concussion legislation. Tennessee's bill also would require coaches and school athletic directors to undergo a concussion-recognition and head-injury-safety course on an annual basis. Only about half the states that already have youth-concussion laws require formal training for coaches and/or other school officials.

Tennessee isn't the only state currently considering youth-concussion legislation, however. Here's a roundup of what other states are doing, in alphabetical order:

Arkansas: Like Tennessee, Arkansas is one of the few remaining states without any sort of youth-concussion legislation. A bill filed on March 4 aims to change that.

The bill, which was referred to the state's joint budget committee on the same day it was introduced, seeks to establish a pilot project on concussion management. The state department of education would be allowed to spend up to $1 million on the new project from its General Improvement Fund.

California: Unlike Arkansas and Tennessee, California enacted its original youth-concussion law back in October 2011. Less than 18 months later, it's already dealing with a bill seeking amendments.

Legislation introduced on Feb. 20 seeks to add private schools to the mix of those required to follow the state's youth-concussion protocol. The bill also specifies the minimum of what must be included on the concussion-information sheet distributed to parents and guardians (information regarding concussions and their symptoms).

Kansas: Like California, Kansas has touted a youth-concussion law since 2011. A bill introduced on Feb. 19 of this year only seeks to make a small change to that existing law.

Under the proposed legislation, a "health-care provider" would no longer have to be licensed by the state board of healing arts to be considered someone who can provide medical clearance to a student-athlete with a potential concussion. The provider would, however, still need to be licensed to practice medicine and surgery, a licensed chiropractor, a licensed optometrist, a licensed advanced-practice registered nurse, or a licensed physician's assistant to qualify as a health-care provider for these purposes.

Kentucky: Kentucky's youth-concussion law, initially passed last year, is already facing a major amendment in this legislative cycle. A bill introduced on Feb. 19 aims to expand the law's coverage beyond public schools to "any city, county, urban-county government, charter county government, consolidated local government, unified local government, special district, or any department, board, or agency ... that manages an athletic program."

Few states' youth-concussion laws currently apply to all youth-sports organizations, not just schools. (Minnesota is one state that has such a requirement.) The Kentucky bill was referred to the House education committee on Feb. 20, a day after being introduced.

Oregon: Oregon was one of the first states to pass a youth-concussion law, in 2009, but the original law notably does not require parents or guardians to sign a concussion-information form before student-athletes are allowed to participate in sports. A bill introduced on Feb. 26 seeks to change that by requiring both student-athletes ages 12 and older and parents to provide an acknowledgement of receipt of concussion materials before the students can participate.

The bill also seeks, like Kentucky's proposal, to expand the coverage of Oregon's youth-concussion law beyond schools. For any nonschool-affiliated athletic team with athletes younger than 18, the conditions of the bill (concussion forms being distributed to parents, removal of student-athletes suspected of concussions, mandatory coaches training, etc.) would apply.

South Carolina: South Carolina remains one of the few states without a youth-concussion law on the books, but a bill introduced in the state House on Jan. 8 could change that.

The bill would require student-athletes and parents to review concussion information annually before the students can participate in sports; immediate removal of play for any student-athlete suspected of a concussion by a coach, athletic trainer, or team physician; and written clearance from a health care provider before a student-athlete suspected of a concussion can return to play. The bill does not, however, specify any form of mandatory training for coaches.

Vermont: Vermont went to work early this year on modifying its youth-concussion law, which was initially passed in 2011. The original law's language is somewhat unclear in terms of a coach's responsibility if a student-athlete may have sustained a concussion, but the proposed bill clearly specifies who's responsible (both a coach and athletic trainer) for determining when it's time to remove an athlete for a potential concussion.

The original law calls for biennial concussion training for coaches, but the new bill aims to make that training happen annually. It was introduced in the state Senate on Jan. 11, and has since made its way through the Senate judiciary and education committees.

West Virginia: West Virginia, like Tennessee and Arkansas, is one of the few states without a youth-concussion law already on the books. Legislation introduced in the state Senate on Feb. 21 and immediately referred to the Senate committee on education seeks to rectify that.

The bill would require a signed and returned concussion-information form from a student-athlete and a parent before the student could participate in sports; annual concussion training for coaches; immediate removal from play if a health-care provider or athletic trainer suspects a student-athlete of a concussion; and clearance from a health-care provider before a student-athlete suspected of a concussion can return to play. If the bill survives the education committee, it would next be sent to the Senate judiciary committee.

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