Student athlete concussion bill introduced

BISMARCK—North Dakota lawmakers want to see student athletes better protected against concussions.

Legislation introduced Wednesday would require any athletic activity sponsored or sanctioned by a school district to follow a concussion management program.

The program must define the signs and symptoms of a concussion and would require

immediate removal from play or practice if a concussion is suspected.

The student then must be examined by a physician as soon as possible. Clearance from a licensed health care provider would be needed before the athlete could return.

This program would also apply to political subdivisions that sponsor or sanction an athletic activity that requires someone under age 18 to pay a fee to regularly practice, train or compete. This involves local government entities like cities, counties and park boards.

“In looking at this with children and young adults, the goal is to protect them and give them time so that they can participate safely in sports,” said Sen. Spencer Berry, R-Fargo, the prime sponsor of the bill.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates nearly 4 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur each year.

There’s a growing concern these days of youth sports-related injuries, said Michael Bergeron, director of the National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“Sport concussion is certainly one of the most potentially catastrophic of injuries, so it really comes to the forefront and needs to be addressed in a very deliberate, aggressive way,” he said.

The primary goal of the legislative effort is to protect young athletes from sustaining a second concussion injury, said Darren Huber, a spokesman for Sanford Health.

An education session about concussions was offered to state lawmakers Wednesday afternoon at the state Capitol.

 NFL Senior Vice President Jeff Miller of Washington, D.C., was in the Capitol to lend his support to the legislation.

“The NFL has a strategy nationally to try to adopt laws like this youth concussion law that Sen. Berry’s introducing today in North Dakota,” he said. “North Dakota seems to be on the leading edge of some of the work being done here.”

Former North Dakota State University and Buffalo Bills football player Phil Hansen said the issue is a hot topic.

“We’re trying to get mostly awareness out so that kids can be protected from head injuries. The NFL is at the forefront of it, and I think it’s just kind of filtering down to everyone,” Hansen said. “But we certainly want to take care of our kids. We want to make parents, coaches, officials, everybody aware of what’s going on with a concussion.”

The bill does not yet have a hearing date.

Find video of the interviews here.