New Law Will Help Educate & Protect Student-Athletes

Legislative Column from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R,C,I-New Hartford)
November 18, 2011
Last month, residents in the 115th Assembly District were shocked after the tragic death of Ridge Barden, a 16-year-old high school football player, during a game between John C. Birdlebough High School and Homer High School. The death of this bright and all too young student-athlete is completely devastating, and, on behalf of all the residents I represent in Oneida and Oswego counties, I would like to extend our deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to his family, friends and loved ones.

As a parent and as a legislator, protecting students at school is of paramount importance to me. Despite the best attempts of school administrators, coaches, trainers and parents, accidents do happen – especially when playing any sport, not just contact sports like football.

To better ensure the safety of our student-athletes, I supported Assembly Bill 8194 earlier this year to establish the Concussion Management and Awareness Act. The goal of this legislation is to help improve awareness of the dangers of traumatic brain injuries with students as well as to improve the treatment and monitoring of students who suffer from concussions and other brain injuries. This bill was passed in both houses in June, was signed into law by the governor in September, and will take effect for the 2012-13 school year.

In addition to requiring schools to distribute and post online information for students and parents regarding brain injuries (how they occur, signs and symptoms, and guidelines about returning to school and sports following an injury), the new law will require coaches, teachers and other school personnel to be trained about the symptoms of mild traumatic brain injuries and the importance of proper medical treatment.

Furthermore, the new law requires the immediate removal of any student, who has or who may have suffered a concussion, from athletic competition in order to receive proper medical treatment. The law also states students, who have or who may have suffered a concussion, may not return to athletic activities unless the student has been symptom-free for at least 24 hours and a licensed physician has authorized the student’s return to athletics.

While this law came too late to protect Ridge Barden, it will certainly help protect all students in the future. As schools move into their winter sports’ seasons, I would like to caution student-athletes about the risks of brain injuries when engaging in contact sports.

For any questions regarding the new law, or to share your ideas for new state laws, please do not hesitate to contact me by emailing or calling my office in the Westmoreland School Complex at 315-853-2383 to make a personal appointment with me or my staff.