Last month saw significant advances in concussion safety legislation. Concussions are a form of mild to moderate traumatic brain injury generally resulting from contact, such as a jot or blow to the head. A single concussion is often only a short-term problem, but subsequent concussions can be more severe, and more serious, particularly if they occur shortly after the initial injury.
That’s why severe consequences and long-term disability from concussions is such a problem in the world of sports. In fact, experts estimate that over the past three years, over 400,000 high school athletes in the United States have been the victim of a concussion. Athletes who suffer a concussion are often encouraged to “get back in there,” and resume play, dangerous advice indeed. But thanks to last month’s legislation, Illinois citizens, and particularly its students, are safer than ever from these potentially significant injuries.
New concussion safety legislation was signed by Governor Pat Quinn at Soldier Field. The legislation mandates that any young athlete showing signs or symptoms of a concussion or other brain injury must be immediately removed from play or practice until evaluated by trained medical personnel.
The law also requires school boards, together with the Illinois High School Association to develop clear instructions and guidelines for coaches, athletes and parents. The IHSA has now approved a new policy on returning to play after a head injury.
Under the new law, school boards must adopt policies regarding head injury and concussion, and these policies must comply with IHSA protocols. If students are required to sign an agreement or code before participating in sports, that code or agreement must now contain the school district’s concussion policy.
Implementation of the law will be assisted by The Brain Injury Association of Illinois. The Association has been preparing training materials covering sports concussions, to be distributed to schools and park districts to assist them in detecting brain injuries and responding appropriately.
The new law does not, unfortunately, apply to park district athletic programs. Park districts are “authorized” and “encouraged” to provide educational materials on concussions and brain injury to participants, but are not mandated to approve or follow any particular procedure, or any procedure at all.
Illinois is not the only part of the U.S. to see landmark concussion legislation last month. In Washington, D.C., legislation patterned after a Washington State law was enacted. The law covers all athletes younger than 18. Under the law, any injured athlete must receive written clearance from a doctor before returning to play. The law also institutes training for any adult working with student athletes (including coaches, trainers, and even parent volunteers) on concussion risks and warning signs.
Because the D.C. law is so comprehensive (applying to all minor athletes, in whatever venue), some experts believe it is the most comprehensive concussion legislation in the nation. Twenty-eight states, as well as the district, now have concussion legislation in place in some form, or pending in the legislature.
Other recent developments promise to improve concussion safety in athletics, as well. Last month, scientists at Virginia Tech released a new study on the level of concussion protection provided by football helmets on the market this year. For the first time, there is hard data available comparing helmet brands, in an easy-to understand format of star ratings, such as those provided to automobiles for crash safety. We hope that coaches and equipment managers will pay close attention to these new ratings in the future.
Receiving the second-lowest rating of any helmet was the Riddell VSR4, the helmet most commonly used in the NFL, with widespread use in college and high school programs, as well. After receiving the data, the company immediately advised teams to stop using the helmet. Our experienced brain injury lawyers applaud the company for its commitment to safety, and its responsible approach. We wish that more corporations would honor Riddell’s example.
Passen & Powell has recovered millions of dollars for individuals and families of those who sustained traumatic brain injury caused by the negligence of another, including a record-setting $19 million jury verdict on behalf of a child who suffered a serious brain injury in an unsupervised classroom. For a free consultation with one of our Chicago brain injury lawyers, call us at (312) 527-4500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.