Concussion bill would protect young athletes

Much has been written about the tragedies resulting from repetitive concussions in sports. Connecticut may soon be the third state to attack this growing problem.

Concussion is a physiologic disruption of brain function caused by biomechanical forces. There are about 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States each year. As youth sports participation rises, so have the number of concussions.

Typical symptoms include headache, confusion and unsteadiness. Resolution of symptoms varies between minutes to months. In more severe situations, these symptoms are permanent and may be accompanied by depression or learning disabilities.

There are two important steps necessary to treat concussion:

  • Recognition – Athletes, coaches and parents must be aware of the symptoms of concussion and responsibly report them to the athletic trainer or physician involved in the activity.

  • Return – Determining when it is safe for an athlete to safely return after a concussion is a complex decision that takes into account many factors. This decision should only be made by a qualified physician with experience treating brain injuries.

“We can easily teach the public about the signs and symptoms of concussion, but the decision of safe return is infinitely more complex,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, a sports neurologist who addressed the American Academy of Neurology at their recent annual meeting.

Connecticut Bill No. 456, introduced by state Senators Thomas Gaffey and Martin Looney, with local sponsorship from Senator Andrea Stillman, addresses these issues. If passed, the bill would require attendance at a certified course dealing with the recognition of concussion as part of obtaining a coaching permit. It would also require written clearance by a licensed health care professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.

Passage of this bill and its proper implementation represent a major step toward protecting young athletes.

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