Review of 51 laws highlights protection gaps
The NFL helped bring about the most positive concussion news in recent years by helping all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws aimed at protecting youth athletes from head injuries. But many are now asking if those laws carry enough weight.
A recent review by the Associated Press of the 51 concussion laws found that approximately 33 percent made no reference to any ages or grade levels covered. Even fewer make explicit reference to both interscholastic sports and recreation leagues. Some state laws clearly cover public and private schools, some only reference public schools, and others lack any such wording. And any mention of penalties for non-compliant schools and leagues is absent in nearly all.
Missing the mark of the original goal
Washington state passed the first concussion law in 2009. That law calls for coach education on concussion symptoms, removing players from games for suspected head injuries, return-to-play clearance, and required parent/player signed concussion information forms.
The AP review found that only 21 of the laws include all four of the required components in Washington’s bill, which served as the model for other states’ legislation. Laws in only 34 states mandate return to play/practice only upon written clearance by a health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions. And only 30 require concussion information forms be signed by athletes and their parent/guardian.
Headline media coverage of concussion issues resulted in states passing concussion laws quickly. However, concerns about the cost of enforcing the laws resulted in many being ultimately weaker than originally intended, according to Jay Rodne, a Washington state representative who sponsored the original bill.
Where things stand
The NFL admits that in some states compromises were made in some states to get laws on the books. This resulted in “A ‘B’-level law, as opposed to an ‘A’-level law,” according to Jeff Miller of the NFL’s health and safety policy. It’s always possible to go back and amend the laws, said Miller. He points out that the passage of these laws has resulted in a growing awareness of concussion safety protocols and risk management among players, parents, coaches, and team/league administrators and concussion treatment.
We invite you to read more of our articles on concussion risk management and research.