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Delaware Expands Youth-Concussion Law to Non-School Leagues

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a law Tuesday that expands the state's existing youth-concussion legislation to cover sports leagues not affiliated with schools.

Delaware's original youth-concussion law, which Markell signed in 2011, required schools to distribute concussion information sheets to student-athletes, which they had to sign along with a parent or guardian before they were eligible to practice or participate in competition. It also required coaches to complete concussion training and mandated that any student-athlete suspected of having suffered a concussion be removed from play until receiving medical clearance.

The new law, which goes into effect next September, expands those protections to young athletes in any "athletic program or event with on-site coach oversight" within the state, including those that aren't regulated by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association. It also requires the coaches who are responsible for the removal of potentially concussed athletes to notify parents and/or guardians of the requirement for medical clearance before they're allowed to return.

"This bill is really about trying to keep our kids safe," said Markell, according to Lauren Huet of WDEL 101.7 FM. "Several years ago, I signed a bill regarding concussions for kids participating in school sports through the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, but you can get a concussion even if you are not on a school team. So this is really designed to expand the protections for kids who are playing not just in school leagues but also in recreational sports as well."

One of the lead sponsors of the new law, Rep. Debra Heffernan, told Jen Rini of The News Journal, "It's going to impact pretty much every child that is involved in recreational sports. It's really going to keep kids safer."

Every state has some form of a youth-concussion law, but only a handful expand those protections beyond school-based sports. Delaware's new wide-sweeping legislation reportedly won't come with an onslaught of additional costs, however. Heffernan told Rini that concussion-training expenses for coaches are the only new mandate, as the state will provide educational materials to coaches and families.

The new law does not detail how the state will ensure enforcement or whether youth-sports leagues will be subject to penalty if they're found to be noncompliant. 

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