Lawmakers Want To Raise Awareness Of Sports Brain Injuries

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TRENTON – With high school sports practices getting under way, Assembly members Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., Craig J. Coughlin, Thomas P. Giblin and Mila M. Jasey are pushing legislation to create an awareness program on the prevention, risk and treatment of sports-related brain injuries.

“Head injuries are always traumatic, doubly so when they affect the life of a young athlete,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly education panel. “With the competitive, high impact nature of high school sports continuing to intensify, we owe it to these student athletes to look not just at the effects of these injuries, but to take an active role in their diagnosis and prevention.”

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The bill (A-2743) would require the state Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the state Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, to develop an awareness program concerning the prevention, risk and treatment of sports related concussions and other brain injuries among student athletes.

“Concussions in sports are a lot more common – and a lot more life-threatening – than students, parents and coaches realize,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “By creating an awareness campaign with a set policy for treating these injuries, we will undoubtedly help save lives.”

The program would create a brain injury fact sheet – to be distributed annually to student-athletes, parents, coaches and athletic trainers – which would provide information concerning the prevention, symptoms and dangers of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries and would contain information on the appropriate amount of time to delay a student’s return to physical activity after sustaining such injury.

The program also would require school districts develop a written policy concerning the prevention and treatment of sports related concussions and other brain injuries to be used when it is suspected that a student athlete has sustained such an injury.

“Because of the desire to win and the machismo of youth, many seriously injure players insist on getting back in the game,” said Giblin (D-Essex). “Mandating – by law – that students who receive head injuries during a sports game must be removed from play until cleared by a doctor, will keep them from doing irreparable harm to themselves in an effort to ‘look tough.’”

Additionally, the bill would require that any student athlete who sustains or is suspected of sustaining such an injury during practice or play be immediately removed from the game or practice. The student would not be able to participate in any further sports activity until evaluated by a physician trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and given written permission to return to physical activity.

“These student athletes have their whole lives ahead of them,” said Jasey (D-Essex), a member of the education panel. “We have a responsibility to ensure that they do not jeopardize their futures and their continued health by attempting to stay in the game for ‘one more play’ after receiving a head injury.”

“When it comes to head injuries, even a small delay in treatment can mean the difference between life and death,” said Diegnan. “If improving the awareness of the serious nature of these types of head injuries helps even one athlete seek medical help instead of trying to return to the game, our efforts will have been worthwhile.”

The bill was approved 78-0 by the Assembly in June and has now been referred to the Senate Education Committee for further consideration.


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