Raising awareness of the effects concussions can have – especially on student athletes, two measures sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Dan Benson, Mila Jasey, Gordon Johnson, Gabriela Mosquera, Nancy Pinkin, Angelica Jimenez, and Benjie Wimberly were approved by the Assembly Education Committee on Thursday.
The first bill (A-1837) requires public school students with concussions to be evaluated by licensed health care professionals before returning to school. In addition, school districts would be required to provide restrictions or limitations to students when needed.
“Concussions, especially in young people, should not be taken lightly. When a child suffers a concussion, there needs to be proper procedures in place for his or her return to school and learning,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “This bill will help ensure the utmost caution is taken during their return to school in order to ease their transition back into the classroom and avoid further injuring themselves.”
Under the bill, a public school student who sustains a concussion must be evaluated and receive written clearance from a licensed health care professional to return to school. As defined in the bill, a “licensed health care professional” is a health care provider whose scope of practice includes the ability to diagnose and treat concussions.
In the event that the licensed health care professional provides notice that the student requires restrictions or limitations, the school district 504 team, as defined in N.J.A.C.6A:8-1.3, (a group of persons that makes program and placement decisions according to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and 34 CFR § 104.35(c)), must immediately implement the restrictions or limitations and notify all teachers and staff who have contact with the student.
“Given the host of side effects that can arise from a concussion-related injury, it is critical that a student who has been hurt is not only medically cleared to return to school, but that the appropriate school professionals are made aware of the student’s injury and have input into his or her integration back into school,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). This is crucial for a full recovery.
“Recovery time for concussions is usually longer for young people than it is for adults,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Making sure that schools are prepared can ensure that students who return to school after a concussion will receive the support needed to boost their recovery.
“Kids, especially younger children, are rambunctious by nature,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “It is wise to have a plan in place led by the appropriate school professionals to ensure that a child who has been cleared to return to school after a concussion doesn’t inadvertently cause further injury.”
The school district’s 504 team would promptly identify the manner in which the restrictions or limitations would be provided during recovery, and the need for the continuation or adjustment of the restrictions or limitations, and to determine the duration of the restrictions or limitations.
“Concussion symptoms can develop days; sometimes even weeks after an injury,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Students spend a good portion of their day in the classroom. It makes sense to include certain school staff in their recovery plan to avoid any complications.”
“Schools should have all hands on deck when a child who has suffered a concussion returns to school,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Having a response plan guided by the recommendations of a health care professional can help spot problematic side effects and prevent aggravating the injury.”
“Ensuring the safety of a student who is returning to school after a concussion is not only a concern for school officials, but parents,” said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). “This would help put parental anxieties at ease by ensuring the child is carefully monitored until they are completely in the clear.”
“Concussions are brain injuries and therefore must be treated with the utmost caution, both short and long term,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Young people spend a big part of their day in school. Students need to be more carefully monitored to address possible dangerous side effects.”
The second measure (A-2655) would allow other licensed health care providers trained in the evaluation and management of concussions in addition to physicians to provide written clearance for student-athlete return to physical activity.
Current law only allows physicians to provide written clearance for a student to return to play. This bill would expand that right to other licensed health care providers as well.