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New Concussion Bill Popular With Coaches


(Editor’s Note.  This article first appeared on the Your Norwin blog, a service of the Norwin Star newspaper.  This blog can be located online at http://yournorwin.com).

It doesn’t do anything to help balance the budget, but at least when it comes to safety, Pennsylvania lawmakers are getting things done.

Last week, the Pennsylvania House unanimously approved the Safety in Youth Sports Act, which requires that coaches remove student-athletes from play if they demonstrate signs of a concussion and also requires a medical doctor, a physician-designated medical professional or a neuropsychologist approve the athlete’s return to play.

The bill, which has been endorsed by people ranging from the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center (UPMC) Sports Medicine Concussion Program head Michael Collins to NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, would establish a standard course of action for athletes suffering head injuries instead of the current school-by-school decision on how to handle such injuries.

Approval of the bill is expected by the state Senate, and Gov. Tom Corbett already has indicated his desire to sign concussion legislation into law, making the bill’s passage seem to be merely a formality.

But perhaps the best thing about the bill is the positive reaction it is getting from local coaches, the people on the front line of enforcing the new regulations.

“I think it’s a good thing because this has become a serious issue at all levels, from the pros to 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds,”Penn-Trafford football coach John Ruane said.

“(Football) is a collision sport, and you hate to see the stories of kids that get seriously hurt and even of deaths in football games.”

Just up the road in Murrysville, Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta is also a fan and for a more personal reason.

“I had six concussions in my career, and that’s what ended my playing days and got me into coaching at IUP,” Botta said. “Even today, when I wake up in the morning, sometimes I feel the effect of those hits back in the ’70s.”

The bill, while fueled by football-related injuries, applies to youth athletes in all sports. And while the bill would require coaches to receive training in concussion recognition, it also would make coaches immune from civil liability if the law is followed.

That means coaches, who sometimes face the difficult challenge of telling young athletes that they can’t return to a game, now have the law on their side in keeping their players safe.

“We always err on the side of safety, anyway, but kids are going to do whatever they can to get back on the field,” Ruane said.

“It’s a difficult situation to be in either way, but they have to understand the big picture.”

“When I was a kid, I always wanted to play, and I’m sure the same goes for these kids now,” Botta said.

“Someone has to stand up and say your health is a concern, and I’m glad to see the professionals are being brought in to take over that decision.”

While the new law inevitably will cause disappointment for athletes who miss playing time, it’s a much-needed step to ensure that the safety of players is put above all else, including winning.

“Last year, I remember seeing a kid take a really violent hit and get taken out of the game,” Botta said. “But later in the same game, he was back in there. I couldn’t believe it.

“If you’re going that far just to win, it’s probably time to get out of coaching.”

Matt Grubba is the Sports Editor for the Norwin Star.  The blog this article is taken from is a free access blog committed to sharing information across the internet.  The United States Sports Academy is sponsoring a webinar on sports injuries on Nov. 10, 2011.  Part of the program will involve a presentation on concussion diagnosis by Dr. Steve Devick, whose easy-to-use diagnostic test has been studied by the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. To learn more about this webinar go to http://ussa.edu/devick.


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