Lawmakers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut all passed new laws in 2010 designed to ensure student athletes who suffer suspected concussions get the proper treatment and do not return to action too quickly. The law requires education for coaches, parents, volunteers and young athletes regarding the signs and symptoms of concussion, guidelines for managing a concussion, and information on the risks and consequences of not taking action.
Laws addressing high school athletics and concussion training have already been passed in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia and Washington, while national legislation is making its way through Congress.
From high school playing fields to National Football League stadiums, increased awareness about the serious long-term impacts of sports concussions is changing attitudes about an injury once casually dismissed.
The Massachusetts Sport Concussion Law requires any athlete with a possible concussion be immediately removed from a practice or game. They cannot resume playing without written permission from a doctor.
Massachusetts law has ‘return-to-play’ guidelines and requires concussion awareness training for all coaches, trainers, athletic directors, parent volunteers, school nurses and even marching band directors. Parents or guardians of the estimated 165,000 public school students who play extracurricular sports must also be educated about concussions.
A 2009 survey by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that more than 18 percent of student athletes in Massachusetts reported receiving at least one blow to the head in the previous 12 months and experiencing symptoms such as loss of consciousness, memory problems, blurry vision, headaches or nausea.
The state has yet to draft specific guidelines for concussion training, so in the interim, the health department is referring schools to free online programs offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The National Federation of State High School Associations offers this PDF, A Parent’s Guide to Concussion in Sports.