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(EAST RUTHERFORD) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., Craig J. Coughlin, Thomas P. Giblin, Mila M. Jasey and Ruben J. Ramos Jr. to create an awareness program on the prevention, risk and treatment of sports-related brain injuries was signed into law Tuesday.
“Head injuries are always traumatic, doubly so when they affect the life of a young athlete,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex), chairman of the Assembly education panel. “With the competitive, high impact nature of high school sports continuing to intensify, we owe it to these student athletes to look not just at the effects of these injuries, but to take an active role in their diagnosis and prevention.”
A video on the new law can be found at:
The law (A-2743) requires the state Department of Education (DOE) to develop an interscholastic athletic head injury safety training program, concerning the prevention, risk and treatment of sports related concussions and other brain injuries among student athletes. The program needs to be completed by a school physician, a person who coaches an interscholastic sport and an athletic trainer.
“Concussions in sports are a lot more common – and a lot more life-threatening – than students, parents and coaches realize,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “By creating an awareness campaign with a set policy for treating these injuries, we will undoubtedly help save lives.”
“Because of the desire to win and the machismo of youth, many seriously injure players insist on getting back in the game,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “Mandating – by law – that students who receive head injuries during a sports game must be removed from play until cleared by a doctor, will keep them from doing irreparable harm to themselves in an effort to ‘look tough.'”
“These student athletes have their whole lives ahead of them,” said Jasey (D-Essex), a member of the education panel. “We have a responsibility to ensure that they do not jeopardize their futures and their continued health by attempting to stay in the game for ‘one more play’ after receiving a head injury.”
“The program also creates a brain injury fact sheet – to be distributed annually to student-athletes, parents, coaches and athletic trainers – which will provide information concerning the prevention, symptoms and dangers of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “All in all, this is a commonsense approach to a real problem facing our young athletes.”
The program also will require school districts develop a written policy concerning the prevention and treatment of sports related concussions and other brain injuries to be used when it is suspected that a student athlete has sustained such an injury. To help school districts in developing these policies, the state DOE will be required to create a model policy for grades K-12 by no later than March 31.
Additionally, the law requires that any student athlete who sustains or is suspected of sustaining such an injury during practice or play be immediately removed from the game or practice. The student will not be able to participate in any further sports activity until evaluated by a physician trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and given written permission to return to physical activity.
Finally, under the law, each person licensed as an athletic trainer, as a condition of license renewal, will have to complete 24 hours of continuing education credits, which include specific instruction on concussions and head injuries.
“When it comes to head injuries, even a small delay in treatment can mean the difference between life and death,” said Diegnan. “If improving the awareness of the serious nature of these types of head injuries helps even one athlete seek medical help instead of trying to return to the game, our efforts will have been worthwhile.”