Johnson, Mainor, Wimberly & Garcia Bill to Help Prevent & Minimize Concussions in Young Athletes Gets Assembly Panel Approval

Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Gordon Johnson, Charles Mainor, Benjie Wimberly and Carmelo Garcia to help prevent and minimize the effects of concussions in young athletes and cheerleaders continues to advance in the Assembly.

“Most concussions don’t result in a loss of consciousness, so many young athletes might not even realize they’ve suffered one,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Having written policies readily accessible will help coaches and staff recognize the signs more quickly to ensure student-athletes get the treatment they need.”

“Even what might appear to be a minor ‘ding,’ can end up being a serious head injury if ignored,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “In the case of young athletes, it’s better to have these policies in place and be safe rather than sorry.”

The bill (A-1672), which recently cleared the Assembly Women and Children Committee, would require youth sports team organizations and cheerleading programs to implement a written policy concerning the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions and other head injuries among youth athletes or cheerleaders.

Under current law, school districts are obligated to have implemented such policies for participants in interscholastic athletics. This bill extends that requirement to youth sports team organizations and cheerleading programs. Under the bill, a “youth sports team organization” or “cheerleading program” means one or more sports, cheerleading or dance team organized pursuant to a non-profit or similar charter or one in a league organized by or affiliated with a county or municipal recreation department.

“As a high school coach, I know how helpful these policies have been in school,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic), who is the head football coach at Hackensack High School. “Sports have gotten increasingly competitive and, by default, the severity of certain injuries has increased. It pays to have sports programs that are well equipped to address these injuries.”

“A concussion is a traumatic brain injury, one that needs to be taken seriously and treated appropriately so an athlete can recover fully without doing more harm to themselves,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “If a coach or trainer has the knowledge to address these injuries quickly, they can help minimize any long-term effects on an athlete.”

The bill requires the policies to be consistent with the provisions of the model policy established by the Commissioner of Education. They shall include, but not be limited to: pre-season baseline testing of all youth athlete participants; provision of educational information on prevention of head injuries in youth athletes to parents or guardians of participants; training on early identification and treatment of head injuries for coaches and athletic directors; and immediate removal of participants who are suspected of having sustained a head injury from practice or competition until evaluated and cleared by a physician or other licensed healthcare provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.

The measure now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.