Assembly Approves Bill To Protect Student Athletes From Sports-Related Injuries

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TRENTON – On Thursday, the Assembly approved a bill by a 76-0 vote that would create several measures to ensure the health of student athletes, including making physical exams a requirement under New Jersey law for students in grades six through 12 who want to play school-sponsored sports.

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr.

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr.

“Playing sports offer many benefits to young people, but for a student who suffers from asthma, a heart condition or any other serious ailment, they can be dangerous,” said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), a sponsor of the bill. “This bill puts in place several provisions to ensure the safety of our young athletes. No student should step onto a field if he or she has an illness that could be exacerbated by playing a sport.”

Current State Board of Education regulations require school districts to ensure that students in grades six to 12 have a physical examination prior to participation in school-sponsored athletics, with the findings of the examination documented on a form approved by the Commissioner of Education.

The bill (A-3048) would make it a statutory requirement for public and nonpublic schools to require students enrolled in grades six through 12 who want to play a school-sponsored interscholastic or intramural sport to get a physical examination before they can join the team or squad.

Under the bill, schools would have to use the “Pre-participation Physical Evaluation” form developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine.

The physical examination required under the bill must be conducted within 365 days prior to the first day of official practice in an athletic season, and must be conducted by a licensed physician, advanced practice nurse or physician assistant. If the exam is conducted more than 90 days prior to the first day of practice, the student would be required under the bill to also submit a health history update questionnaire for review by the school nurse and, if applicable, the school athletic trainer.

The bill also directs the Commissioner of Education and the Commissioner of Health, in consultation with the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the American Heart Association, and the New Jersey Chapter of the American College of Cardiology to develop, by the 2013-2014 school year, a Student-Athlete Cardiac Screening professional development module to increase the assessment skills of those health care practitioners who perform student-athlete physical examinations and screenings.

Under the bill, a physician, advanced practice nurse or physician assistant who performs a student athlete’s annual physical examination prior to the student’s participation in a school-sponsored sport must complete the Student-Athlete Cardiac Screening professional development module. Upon performing a physical examination, the physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant must sign the certification statement on the Pre-participation Physical Evaluation form attesting to the completion of the training module. The signed certification statement would be kept by the public school district’s board of education, or the school’s governing board or chief school administrator.

Lastly, the commissioner of education, in consultation with the commissioner of health, the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics must develop a pamphlet that provides information about sudden cardiac arrest to student-athletes and the parents or guardians of student athletes. The bill requires the commissioner to distribute the pamphlet to all school districts in the state at no charge. Individual school districts must distribute the pamphlet to student athletes and their parents or guardians starting in the 2013-2014 school year and each subsequent school year, as part of the student’s pre-participation physical examination. Student athletes and their parents or guardians must certify in writing that they received and reviewed the pamphlet.

Under the bill, the pamphlet and the training module must be posted on the websites of the Department of Education, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, the Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey, the State Board of Medical Examiners, the New Jersey State Board of Nursing, and the New Jersey State Society of Physician Assistants.

The bill was approved 76-0 by the Assembly and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.


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