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Assembly Panel Advances Bills to Protect Student Athletes with Head Injuries

(TRENTON) – Taking action to ensure New Jersey student athletes who sustain head injuries like concussions are able to safely and appropriately return to school and sports activities, the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday approved two bills to ensure the wellbeing of students is prioritized through their recovery.

The first measure (A-1599) would require students who sustain head injuries outside of school-sanctioned athletic events to be evaluated by and receive clearance from a licensed healthcare professional before returning to school. Schools would accommodate students who require restrictions or limitations as a result of their injury. The legislation is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington), Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris), Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Gabriela Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester), Angelica Jimenez (D-Bergen, Hudson) and Benjie Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic).

The second bill (A-679) would require school districts to revise their written policies concerning the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions and other head injuries among student athletes and cheerleaders to include information from the Center for Disease Control’s six-step “Return to Play Progression” guidance. The measure is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson).

Under the measure, per CDC guidance, students who sustain a concussion or other head injury should not return to competition or practice until they first return to regular school activities and no longer experience symptoms of the injury while in school. The policy must also require that students be evaluated by a physician and receive clearance from their doctor before returning to competition or practice.

The sponsors of both measures released the following joint statement:

“The health and safety of students must always come first. Head injuries are very serious, and it’s imperative that we make sure that any student suffering from post-concussion syndrome receives the support they need to safely and methodically return to full classroom learning. It is especially important that student athletes demonstrate full recovery as before they are cleared to return to the playing field.”

“By ensuring that our school policies regarding head injuries reflect the most recent science and guidance from the CDC, we can prevent further injury and allow students to take the time they need to ease back into academic and athletic activities.”