The governing body for New Jersey high school athletics is proposing a regulation requiring those who sustain a concussion to get a certified physician’s approval to return to game action.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association made the proposal during a hearing of the state Assembly’s education committee last week, and is expected to adopt the regulation next month.
The proposal drew praise from U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., who sponsored federal legislation in 2008 aimed at protecting student-athletes from the dangers of concussions.
“The need still exists for national guidelines and protocols, established by leading health-care professionals, to establish uniformity of treatment throughout the country,” Mr. Pascrell said in a statement.
Some experts say the new rules could be costly to families with less than adequate health-care coverage or no coverage at all.
Brian Robinson, the chairman of the National Athletic Trainers Association’s secondary school committee, said schools are not responsible for the costs associated with injured athletes.
“High school athletics is a privilege and not a right,” he said.
Mr. Robinson is an advocate for athletic trainers—those trained to prevent, diagnose, and treat injuries—who he says can reduce the impact that injuries can have on athletes.
Bob Baly, the assistant executive director of the NJSIAA, said the new regulations are a step in the right direction and would improve an athletic director’s ability to keep athletes with head injuries from risking further injury.
“It would be foolish for students to play for a school that doesn’t take this sort of thing seriously,” Mr. Baly said.
The proposed guidelines would require athletes, coaches, and trainers to undergo annual training on head injuries, including recognition of concussion symptoms. Parents would be provided with information on head injuries before the start of each sports season.
In addition, the new regulations would require athletes who sustain head injuries to go a week without exhibiting symptoms before returning to game play. Athletes would immediately be removed from play if they showed any sign of a concussion.
Mr. Baly said New Jersey athletic programs that didn’t comply with the new regulations would face penalties, including probation and possible dismissal from the state athletic association.
A version of this article appeared in the March 17, 2010 edition of Education Week as N.J. Panel Targets Sports Injuries