Assemblyman Benedetto Introduces Legislation to Protect Student Athletes

Bronx – Assemblyman Michael R. Benedetto introduced legislation to protect high school athletes’ against serious injuries caused by concussions.

According to the University of Ohio, sports related injuries are the second leading cause of serious head traumas in young adults ages 15 to 24. The problem is often compounded when the athlete is put back on the field without undergoing a sufficient healing process. The Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital estimates that as many as 40% of student athletes’ return to play prematurely after an injury.

This serious problem came to Assemblyman Benedetto’s attention after his office was contacted by a mother of one such athlete, Ms. Carol O’Malley. Ryan O’Malley was a rising football star until he suffered to breakdown at Sacred Heart University. After undergoing medical tests, the breakdown was attributed to a series of head concussions that Ryan suffered playing football in high school.

“I am a big sports fan, and I strongly support sports related programs for our youth. However, I believe that we must set firm guidelines to deal with concussions. Oftentimes the athletes’ are not aware of the seriousness of their injuries, are pressured to return to the field, or feel an obligation to the team to re-enter the game thus further aggravating an already serious medical condition” said Assemblyman Benedetto.

The legislation received a major boost when Senator Jeffrey Klein introduced the bill in the State Senate. Senator Klein’s sponsorship of the bill adds momentum and highlights growing concern about the safety of high school sports.

The key elements of Assemblyman Benedetto’s and Senator Klein’s legislation are:

  • New York State Department of Education, working with State Department of Health and New York State Public High School Athletic Association, will develop guidelines to establish standards for school districts regarding concussions and injuries sustained during school athletic games.
  • On a yearly basis, a concussion and head injury information sheet shall be signed and returned by the youth athlete and the athlete’s parents and/or guardian prior to the youth athlete’s initiating practice or competition.
  • A youth athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury in practice or a game shall be removed from competition at that time.
  • A youth athlete who has been removed from play may not return to play until the athlete is evaluated by a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussion and receives written clearance to return to play from the health care provider.

“I am hoping to raise awareness about the importance of regulations concerning head injuries in all sports’. Hopefully, in time we can see a sports-related facility in place where injured athletes can receive treatment and encouragement,” said Ms. O’Malley.