With a new year comes a new law, adopted into policy by the Franklin County Board of Education, geared to make conditions safer for student athletes.
Concussions have been a media hot topic lately with retired National Football League players agreeing to a $765 million legal settlement last year.
At the youth level, which comprises 70 percent of the football players in the nation, concern about gridiron concussions has become widespread, leading the State of Tennessee to place a new protective law into effect.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that changes the way the brain normally works.
Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness. Athletes who have, at any point in their lives, had a concussion have an increased risk for another concussion, according to the CDC.
Young children and teens are more likely to get a concussion and take longer to recover than adults, the CDC says.
In April 2013, Tennessee became the 44th state to pass a sports law designed to reduce youth concussions and increase awareness of traumatic brain injury.
The legislation, Public Chapter 148, has three key components:
· To inform and educate coaches, youth athletes and their parents and require them to sign a concussion information form before competing.
· To require removal of a youth athlete who appears to have suffered a concussion from play or practice at the time of the suspected concussion.
· To require a youth athlete to be cleared by a licensed health care professional before returning to play or practice.
Public and private school sports and recreational leagues for children under age 18 that require a fee are affected by the new law.
The law covers all sports.
Dr. Rebecca Sharber, Franklin County Schools explained the Board of Education’s action.
“The sports concussion policy was put in place based on a new Tennessee law which went into effect Jan. 1,” she said. “We all believe that the awareness this will create will help keep students safer when they participate in sports.”
The policy just adopted says:
“The Board adopts the guidelines and other pertinent information and forms developed by the Tennessee Department of Health to inform and educate coaches, school administrators, student athletes, and parents/ guardians of the nature, risk and symptoms of concussions and head injuries. These guidelines and materials may be viewed on the Department of Health’s website and shall be made available to interested parties through the Central Office.
“This policy shall govern all activities and those individuals involved in those activities which constitute an organized athletic game or competition against another team or in practice or preparation for an organized game or competition.
“It does not govern those activities or individuals involved in those activities which are entered into for instructional purposes only or those that are incidental to a non-athletic program or lesson.”
The policy also says that the director of schools shall ensure that each school’s athletic director, coaches, and athletic program volunteers complete the Concussion in Sports — What You Need to Know online course.
It also says that “concussion and head injury” forms must be filled out be designated personnel, signed by parents or guardians and kept on file for at least three years as a record of injuries that have occurred.
The policy says that any student athlete who shows signs, symptoms and behavior consistent with a concussion during an athletic activity or competition shall be immediately be removed for evaluation by a licensed healthcare professional, if available, or coach or designated personnel if not.
It says that student athletes who have been removed from an athletic activity or competition due to a suspected concussion will not be allowed to return to any supervised team activities involving physical exertion until the student athlete has been evaluated and received written clearance approved by the Department of Health from a licensed health care provider.