Assembly Panel Approves Diegnan & Giblin Bill to Protect Young Student Athletes from Sports-Related Injuries

(TRENTON) – The Assembly Education Committee on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Thomas P. Giblin that creates several measures to ensure the health of student athletes, including making medical exams a requirement under New Jersey law for students in grades six through 12 who want to play school-sponsored sports.

“Playing sports offer many benefits to young people, but for a student who suffers from asthma, a heart condition or any other serious ailment, they can be dangerous,” said Diegan (D-Middlesex). “This bill puts in place several provisions to ensure the safety of our young athletes. No student should step onto a field if he or she has an illness that could be exacerbated by playing a sport.”

“Sports can be beneficial to your health, but they can also have the opposite effect if you have a medical condition that can be aggravated by physical activity. Contact sports especially are prone to injuries that can be made worse by certain health conditions,” said Giblin (D-Essex). “This bill helps protect our student athletes from serious injury by putting their safety and well-being first.”

Current State Board of Education regulations require school districts to ensure that students in grades six to 12 have a medical examination prior to participation in school-sponsored athletics, with the findings of the examination documented on a form approved by the Commissioner of Education.

The bill (A-3048) would make it a statutory requirement for public and nonpublic schools to require students enrolled in grades six through 12 who want to play a school-sponsored interscholastic or intramural sport to get a medical examination before they can join the team or squad.

Under the bill, schools would have to use the “Preparticipation Physical Evaluation” form developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Sports Medicine, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine.

The medical examination required under the bill must be conducted within 365 days prior to the first day of official practice in an athletic season, and must be conducted by a licensed physician, advanced practice nurse or physician assistant. If the exam is conducted more than 90 days prior to the first practice, the bill requires the student to also submit a health history update questionnaire for review by the school nurse and the school athletic trainer when applicable.

The bill also directs the Commissioner of Education and the Commissioner of Health, in consultation with the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the American Heart Association, and the New Jersey Chapter of the American College of Cardiology to develop, by the 2013-2014 school year, a Student-Athlete Cardiac Screening professional development module to increase the assessment skills of those medical professionals who perform student-athlete assessments and screenings.

The bill provides that the module and the pamphlet developed be posted on the websites of the Department of Education, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, the State Board of Medical Examiners, the New Jersey State Board of Nursing, the New Jersey State Society of Physician Assistants and the Athletic Trainers’ Society of New Jersey.

Under the bill, a physician, advanced practice nurse or physician assistant who performs a student athlete’s annual medical examination prior to the student’s participation in a school-sponsored sport must complete the Student-Athlete Cardiac Screening professional development module. Upon completion of the module, the physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant must sign and submit a statement attesting to the module’s completion to the Commissioner of Education.

The bill also requires the completion of the Student-Athlete Cardiac Screening professional development module as a condition of continued licensing or certification for any physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant who performs preparticipation examinations of student-athletes.

P.L.2007, c.125 (C.18A:40-41), which was approved on August 6, 2007, directed the Commissioner of Education to develop a pamphlet that provides information about sudden cardiac death, its early warning signs, and its incidence among student athletes. The commissioner was to make the pamphlet available at no charge to all school districts, and in each school year, a school district was to distribute the pamphlet to the parents or guardians of students participating in school sports. This bill amends P.L.2007, c.125 (C.18A:40-41) to provide that beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, a pamphlet providing information about sudden cardiac death must be distributed to a student athlete and to his or her parents or guardians at the time of the student’s preparticipation medical examination and completion of athletic permission forms. Both the student and his or her parents or guardians will certify in writing that they received and reviewed the pamphlet.