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House committee endorses bill requiring concussion policies in youth sports

SHARE House committee endorses bill requiring concussion policies in youth sports

SALT LAKE CITY — Amateur sports organizations would be required to adopt and enforce concussion and head injury policies under a bill endorsed Wednesday by the Utah Legislature's House Health and Human Services Standing Committee.

HB204, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, says the policies must require that athletes under 18 be removed from a sporting event when it is suspected they have sustained a head injury or concussion. To return to play, athletes would be required to obtain medical clearance from a health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.

The legislation would apply to private and public schools, club sports and camps. An amendment approved by the committee would allow an array of health care providers to provide medical clearance to athletes so long as they have attended continuing education training on concussion management within the past three years and operate within their scope of practice.

The Utah High School Activities Association, the governing body for prep sports in the state, has its own policy, which is very similar to the legislation proposed by Ray.

In fact, Ray said the UHSAA's policy on head injuries and return-to-play procedure could be a model for private sports organizations to follow.

Bart Thompson, assistant director of the UHSAA, told the committee that the activity association's policy went into effect about a year ago after a year of study. "We believe this (legislation) is very forward-thinking. We're thrilled that we are going to see better protection of our youth."

Ron Roskos, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Utah, also spoke in favor of the bill, noting it is important to continue to educate the public about personal and societal costs of head injuries.

"If it's a child, we're looking at future leaders — leaders who will be sitting in your chairs some day. We need to find ways to protect them in every way," Roskos said.

Young athletes are particularly vulnerable to second-impact syndrome — a rapid and catastrophic swelling of the brain when sustaining a second concussion before the brain has adequately healed from an initial concussion, Lisa Walker, president of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Trainers Association, told lawmakers Tuesday.

The issue of sports-related head injuries has received considerable attention from professional, college and amateur sports organizations as medical science has learned more about the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries.

The National Football League and organizations governing high school sports have established strict concussion management protocols in recent years, while the National Collegiate Athletic Association has left most of the responsibility for concussion management to colleges.

e-mail: marjorie@desnews.com