Thursday, March 10, 2011

Proposed Maryland Legislation to Protect Student Athletes from the Dangerous Effects of Concussions

In the wake of concussions sidelining high-profile National Football League players such as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller, public awareness has grown about the detrimental effects a concussion has on the physical and mental well-being of athletes.

Concussions don’t just affect high-profile professional athletes, but student athletes as well.
Each year, U.S. emergency departments treat an estimated 135,000 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, among children ages 5 to 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This has led to a call from doctors, parents and coaches from across the nation for state governments to implement legislation for improved safety and educational standards regarding how concussions are diagnosed and treated.

Maryland is one of a number of states considering such legislation. Legislators in both the House of Delegates and Senate have introduced bills that will protect student athletes from the dangerous effects of concussions.

The House of Delegates bill (HB 858) would require a student athlete to be removed from practice or play following a suspected concussion; he or she will only be allowed to return after clearance by a licensed health care provider. It would also require the Maryland State Department of Education to develop an awareness and training program for coaches, school personnel, student-athletes and parents/guardians. Additionally, a student athlete and parent/guardian would sign an information sheet and acknowledgment statement before participating in a sport. The Senate bill (SB 771) has similar language.

LifeBridge Health has joined the NFL, the Brain Injury Association of Maryland and other organizations in support of this legislation.

Kevin Crutchfield, M.D., a neurologist with at the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute at LifeBridge Health, spoke in support of the legislation at a hearing last week in Annapolis.

“We need the concussion bills passed to protect the children of Maryland today, while we accelerate our education efforts around the state regarding the dangers of athletic participation with an injured brain,” he said.

Crutchfield is director of the Comprehensive Sports Concussion Program at the Brain & Spine Institute. He is considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the effects of concussions on athletes. He serves on the NFL Player Association’s return-to play committee and as an independent neurologist for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

Both Maryland bills are expected to go to a vote in the next few weeks.

-Noel Lloyd

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