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Proposed New York State Sports Concussion Legislation, A Poor Compromise

I have been following press reports of the imminent passage of sports concussion legislation in New York State this evening in the New York State Senate and tomorrow in the New York State Assembly. 

I am  a strong proponent of sports concussion legislation that will provide meaningful safety to those exposed to the risk of concussions in sporting activities.   There can be no compromises when it comes to protecting the health and safety of our children.

As Chairman of the Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council and immediate past president of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, I am very disappointed with the compromises reached in an attempt to pass some sort of concussion management legislation in New York State.  The proposed legislation fails to incorporate the important recommendations of the Council concerning mandatory base line testing; fails to mandate a consistent concussion management program; fails to protect athletes involved in organized sports outside the school setting; fails to provide uniform and meaningful protection for children throughout the State; fails to address the need for medical insurance coverage for those who are injured; and fails to address penalties for the failure to comply.

I’m fearful that the minimum protections in the act will become the de facto standard and cause further unnecessary, preventable injuries.  The arbitrary 24-hour period set before a child can return to play provides a false sense of protection, because proper testing is not mandated and there is no requirement that the medical clearance come from a doctor with experience in treating head injuries.  A minimum return to play protocol should be at least one week with clearance by a qualified professional who has received training in sports concussion management.

This legislation provides less protection to your state’s youth than protection being provided to NFL and MLB players.  These leagues require all their players to have base line testing and repeat testing following a concussion, and provide for longer periods of recovery before even considering the return to play.  One wonders if the support by the NFL for this insipid legislation in New York and in other states is an attempt to create a standard that insulates the league from future misconduct.

Given the life-threatening and lifelong consequences that can develop following a concussion, the large number of our children who continue to sustain concussions while engaged in sporting activities, and the all the current medical information available, the State of New York decidedly could and should do more to protect its youth.

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