Student Well-Being

Youth-Concussion Update: New Vt. Law Signed, S.C. Bill Advances

By Bryan Toporek — June 05, 2013 3 min read
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Vermont’s student-athletes will now be prohibited from continuing to participate in a school-based athletic event if they’ve sustained a concussion under a new law signed Tuesday.

The law, signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin on the athletic fields of Montpelier High School, requires coaches and athletic trainers to remove student-athletes from practice or competition if they “know or should know that the athlete has sustained a concussion or other head injury.” Student-athletes removed from play in this fashion must receive written permission to participate in athletics from a health-care provider before being allowed to return.

Vermont’s original youth-concussion law, passed back in May of 2011, contained language that less clearly defined when a student-athlete suspected of having a concussion must be removed from play. That law stated: “A coach shall not permit a youth athlete to train or compete with a school athletic team if the athlete has been removed or prohibited from participating in a training session or competition associated with the school athletic team due to symptoms or other head injury” until receiving written clearance from a health-care provider. However, it failed to specify the circumstances in which a coach or other school official would be required to remove the student-athlete from play, opening a potential loophole.

The 2011 law does have plenty in common with the updated version signed Tuesday, however. Both laws require youth-athletes and a parent or guardian to sign a concussion-information form on an annual basis before being allowed to participate in school-based athletics, and mandate that coaches receive concussion training at least once every two years.

The new law adds an additional training requirement: High school referees who oversee “collision sports” (football, ice hockey, lacrosse, or wrestling) must also undergo training at least once every two years regarding how to recognize concussions.

It also mandates that each public and independent school in the state must have a concussion-management action plan “that describes the procedures the school shall take when a student-athlete suffers a concussion.” The plan must include information about who’s responsible for making the decision to remove student-athletes from play when suspected of a concussion, what steps the athlete must take to return to “any athletic or learning activity,” who makes the final decision about when the athlete can return, and who’s responsible for informing a parent or guardian when his or her child suffers a sports-related concussion.

For any school-based collision sports, the home team is now required under this law to ensure that a health-care provider (such as an athletic trainer or other licensed official) is present. Home teams are “strongly encouraged,” but not required, to ensure the presence of a health-care provider during any contact sport beyond the four specified “collision sports.”

Most of the new law goes into effect on July 1. The provision about schools ensuring the presence of a health-care provider during collision sports takes effect on July 1, 2015.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina: The youth-concussion bill progressing through the legislature was unanimously approved by both the state Senate and state House and is now headed to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk for a signature.

If passed, the bill would require parents to sign a concussion-information form before their child would be allowed to participate in school-based athletics. It would also require student-athletes to be removed from play if suspected of a concussion, and they wouldn’t be allowed to return to play until obtaining medical clearance. While the bill mandates that school districts distribute a concussion-information form to all coaches, no formal concussion training would be required for coaches.

South Carolina is currently only one of two states without a youth-concussion law on the books. The other state, Mississippi, has no youth-concussion legislation pending, after three bills failed to pass through committees earlier this year.

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