Student Well-Being

New York Ups Ante on Student-Athlete Concussion Rules

By Bryan Toporek — March 17, 2011 3 min read
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In the ongoing battle against student-athlete concussions, New York may be raising the stakes for the rest of the country. (Remember, the NFL has encouraged all 50 states and D.C. to pass concussion laws.)

State Sen. Kemp Hannon, chair of the Senate Health Committee, introduced legislation yesterday that would force New York schools to prevent student-athletes from returning to play for at least 24 hours after suffering concussions, even with approval from a doctor, according to the Associated Press.

Many other states, such as Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon passed concussion laws in the past few years requiring student-athletes to obtain a physician’s clearance before returning to competition. However, New York’s “at least 24 hours before returning” element is a first for state concussion legislation (to this author’s knowledge).

That being said ... is it really all that groundbreaking of a step? What are the realistic chances someone’s getting a doctor’s clearance within 24 hours of sustaining a concussion anyway? I’ll admit I have zero medical experience, but I’ve watched enough sports to know players aren’t returning from concussions in a day.

The bill’s true impact, as it turns out, may be on the administrative side of things. It would require the state health and education departments to adopt rules for treating and monitoring students with mild brain injuries such as concussions, according to

That’s not all—every school district in the state would be required to have a concussion-management team (of health professionals and coaches) that helps with the education efforts with students and parents and helps student-athletes return to the field after sustaining concussions.

While this bill does go further than most states’ concussion legislation, there’s plenty of room for improvement, as the New York State Public High School Athletic Association would likely point out. Last year, it issued a suggested sample list of concussion guidelines and rules for districts’ usage, and one item sticks out in particular: a five-day weaning process for concussed student-athletes. After receiving a doctor’s clearance, the formerly concussed athlete would be limited to light aerobic activity the first day, move on to sport-specific activity on day two, participate in noncontact training drills on day three, graduate to full contact practice on day four, and return to competition on day five.

If New York truly wanted to set a new bar for concussion legislation, it’s surprising that lawmakers didn’t include that five-day progression in their proposal.

In other concussion-related news, the Rhode Island House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare held a hearing yesterday to discuss legislation aimed at revising a state law passed last year intended to help educate parents, student-athletes, and coaches about concussions. The lawmakers hope to extend that law this year by (tell me if this sounds familiar) requiring a student-athlete who displays concussion symptoms to obtain a doctor’s clearance before returning to competition.

And Inside the Beltway, two congressmen introduced legislation on Wednesday that targets the safety of football helmets for high school players. Believe it or not, the industry currently only requires football helmets “to withstand only the extremely high-level force that would otherwise fracture skulls,” according to the New York Times.

That’s not good enough for New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall and New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell. Their bill would give football-helmet makers nine months to improve the safety standards of their helmets. If they failed to make any changes, the bill would force the Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish safety standards for all helmet makers.

According to 2006 statistics from the National Center for Injury Prevention, 47 percent of high school football players suffer concussions each season.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.