On Thursday, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced legislation that would establish a national standard for youth-concussion treatment and prevention.
Each state has already passed some form of a youth-concussion law, but some are far more expansive than others. According to a 2014 analysis from the Education Commission of the States, just half of states require coaches to complete a concussion-management training program (some annually, some biennially), while only 13 states’ laws extend coverage beyond public school sports to private schools or youth athletic leagues. While multiple states have begun the process of amending those laws to further strengthen them, not all have followed suit.
Under Durbin’s proposed legislation, all public elementary and secondary schools would be required to post concussion information on school grounds, including the signs and symptoms of a concussion, the risks of sustaining a concussion, and how students should react if they do sustain a concussion. The law would require school personnel to immediately remove from play any student-athlete suspected of having sustained a concussion, and those student-athletes would not be allowed to return until receiving written clearance from a licensed health care professional.
The bill doesn’t stop there, however. Even if a student sustains a concussion outside of school, he or she must received written clearance from a health care provider before returning to participation in school-sponsored athletics. Additionally, each local education agency would be required to “develop and implement a standard plan for concussion safety and education” that includes release forms sent to parents and student-athletes and concussion training for school personnel. The bill encourages districts to establish a multi-disciplinary concussion-management team to help students return to both athletic and academic activities.
“My bill sets, for the first time, minimum state requirements for the prevention and treatment of concussions,” Durbin said in a statement. “These common sense safety requirements will help effectively address head injuries in our youth. We must ensure students, parents, and coaches have the information they need to effectively evaluate these types of injuries.”
Here’s the kicker: If states aren’t in compliance with the bill within five years of its passage, their federal funding would be in jeopardy. During a state’s first year of non-compliance, the bill authorizes the U.S. Secretary of Education to “reduce by 5 percent the amount of funds the state receives under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965" for the first fiscal year following the deadline. If said state continues to remain out of compliance following that first year, the education secretary would be authorized to reduce ESEA funding by 10 percent for the next fiscal year.
This isn’t the first time a congressman has attempted to enact federal youth-concussion legislation. Similar versions of the bill were introduced in both 2010 and 2011, but neither made it out of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, however. Durbin introduced an earlier version back in 2013, but it likewise failed to advance past the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee. GovTrack.us gives this latest version of the bill just a 1 percent chance of moving past the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, where it has been referred.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.