Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Education Committee Chair Catherine T. Nolan today announced the passage of the Concussion Management and Awareness Act, which would establish statewide safeguards to protect student athletes from brain injuries while participating in interscholastic sports or physical education classes.
"A blow to the head during an athletic competition should not be treated as inconsequential. It's not one of those temporary injuries where athletes can just 'dust themselves off' and get back into the game," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "We know there are long-term health consequences from untreated concussions. With this act, we establish much needed standards in our schools for the prevention of further injury to young athletes who suffer a concussion while competing in school athletics."
The Act (A.8194) would require the State Education Department (SED), in conjunction with the Health Department (DOH) to establish head-injury guidelines for schools across the state. Under the bill, school coaches, physical education teachers, nurses and athletic trainers would be required to undergo head-injury training to learn how to identify symptoms of a concussion and to seek medical treatment for an injured student.
"We have sports in our schools so students can experience the thrill of competition, physical activity and interscholastic athletics. No child should suffer a lifetime of serious medical problems because they did not receive appropriate medical care for a concussion," said Nolan (D-Queens). "This measure will allow us to better protect our young athletes and spare them from the long-term health problems of a brain injury."
Silver and Nolan also recognized Assembly members Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), Michael Benedetto (D-Bronx), Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City) and Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) for their commitment to drafting legislation that addresses the need to protect students who suffer a concussion while playing school sports from sustaining additional injury.
"Concussions are a form of brain injury. When a child or teenager suffers a concussion, the true extent of the harm may be unknown. This bill will help to protect children from reentering play too soon and suffering further harm," said Sweeney.
"This is a bill that is long overdue. It's passage will go a long way to protect our student athletes from the dangers of concussions," said Benedetto.
A major protective component of the bill is the requirement that a student athlete, who has or may have suffered a concussion, must be immediately removed from the game. Their return to athletic activity would only be permitted following a 24 hour period of being symptom free and with the approval of a physician.
In addition, the measure would require SED and DOH to post information on their websites about the warning signs of a concussion as well as the conditions that would allow a student, who has been diagnosed with a concussion, to resume their participation in school athletics.
"Our schools should not lag behind professional sports in relation to safe concussion management. With this legislation New York gets serious about concussions by instituting strict "return to play" standards that ensures student athletes are healthy and symptom free before returning to competition," Zebrowski.
"The mission of this bill is to protect young athletes who have sustained a concussion from further harm by ensuring they get the immediate medical attention they need to avoid additional injury. This legislation will provide a greater awareness of how to identify an athlete who is displaying symptoms of a concussion and outline the steps that must be taken to ensure a player who has suffered a head injury is well enough to continue his or her participation in school athletics," said Rosenthal.
The legislation is supported by the New York State Athletic Trainers' Association, Brain Injury Association of New York, New York State Public High School Athletic Association and the National Football League.
The bill, which the Senate approved earlier this month, will be delivered to the governor for his signature.