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Wisconsin needs sports concussion law

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Lori Schultz & Mark Warhus
June 29, 2011

Sports Concussion legislation is a major topic all around the country, and many states are passing bills protecting the youth athlete. Wisconsin is not far behind and has legislation in the works.


Wisconsin’s proposed bill would mandate that an athlete be removed from practice or play if a concussion is suspected and not be allowed to return to practice or play without first being assessed and cleared by an appropriate medical professional. Information educating the coaches, parents and athletes will be given out annually, and a letter of understanding will be signed in order for the athlete to participate in the activity.


This is a timely issue because recent research found that 14 percent of sudden deaths among young athletes were due to trauma-related injuries. The study also found that most of these deaths were preventable with the use of better equipment and better protocols for when injured athletes should return to action.


There has been some discussion of keeping state government out of the relationship between a young athlete, his or her coach, and parents. Who then should be responsible for setting guidelines that all recreation, youth, select leagues and school teams should follow to ensure safety of athletes?


Are you confident that the coach is educated on the signs and symptoms of concussion, that your child will tell you if he or she doesn’t “feel right,” or that there won’t be that “tough it out” mentality?


Many parents and athletes in Wisconsin could speak to how concussion has impacted them because of lack of education on the part of coaches, parents and athletes. The professional sports leagues have recognized concussion as a serious health issue and have taken steps to educate and protect their players—shouldn’t we educate and protect all players, of all ages in Wisconsin?


While some leagues and school districts have already introduced concussion education to coaches, parents and young athletes, this is not a universal or uniform practice throughout the state. The proposed legislation simply wants those involved with youth sports to learn about concussion, to recognize the potential seriousness of the injury, and to take the appropriate steps to protect the young athlete, who has more than a game or season to look forward to.


The mandated changes will actually reduce the burden of liability from the coach. By immediately removing the player and getting appropriate medical attention they know they have done the prudent, sensible and most of all, safest thing.


Lori Schultz (lschultz@biaw.org) is director of programs and services for the Brain Injury Association of Wisconsin, and Mark Warhus (mwarhus@biaw.org) is the association’s executive director. Office number (262) 790-9660; Helpline 1-800-882-9282.

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