New York State Enacts Concussion Management & Awareness Law

Now that football season is upon us, we'll be hearing more about traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussion on both the professional and student athlete levels. Many states have now passed concussion laws outlining when students are able to resume game play after sustaining a concussion. New York State enacted the Concussion Management and Awareness Act on July 1, 2012 mandating any student who sustains or is thought to have sustained a concussion be removed from the game. Now that the state has stepped in, maybe comments like "shake it off, it's just a ding" won't be around much longer.

In addition to the athlete being removed from a game (or activity) if they suffer a TBI - or are thought to have suffered one the student cannot return to play until he (she) is symptom free for at least 24 hours, and has signed documentation from the treating doctor. The new law also requires physical education teachers, coaches, nurses and athletic trainers take a course every two years and become certified on the recognition of TBI symptoms, understanding how a TBI occurs, prevention, proper medical treatment, and the guidelines on when the player can return to the sport. Moreover, each school district can put together a concussion management team consisting of the athletic director (if there is one), nurse, school doctor, coach and trainer to administer these rules and guidelines for the new law. The concussion management team can then provide information on TBI to parents and guardians throughout the year.

On Wednesday August 22, 2012, my son finished his last high school, double session football practice - without any injuries. In fact the majority of the team has remained fairly healthy, which is great news. If a student athlete is injured, the team has good protocols in place for returning to play. Part of these protocols include having the students take the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment Test) before the start of each season or at least every two years if the athlete has not had a TBI. The ImPACT test measures pre and post-concussive symptoms and performance which is used to get a baseline reading on each athlete and as one of the trainers told me recently, "the kids can't cheat the ImPACT." Now that the Concussion Management and Awareness Act is in place, school districts in New York State have another tool to help them with student safety.

In addition to utilizing the ImPACT test, my son’s high school also holds mandatory meetings hosted by the athletic department before the start of each seasonal sport - fall, winter, spring - for parents and students to discuss the code of conduct, various rules and expectations of the athletes. In the past, a presentation on the dangers of drug use by former students (who made unfortunate choices to use drugs while in high school) has been given. This year, concussion education and prevention will be the topic of the evening, and each parent will most likely need to sign a consent form saying they understand exactly what a concussion is.

I think these are great steps in changing the focus of concussion from "it's just a ding" to let's make sure the neurological health of our children is protected.

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