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Advocates Call for Federal Concussion Law

by Craig Odar | Aug 01, 2011
Experts endorse bill announced by Rep. George Miller

WASHINGTON – Advocates struck a blow Thursday for protecting youth athletes from the devastating impact of concussion. Top experts gathered on Capitol Hill to explain why traumatic brain injury takes such a toll on individuals and society and to recommend federal legislation with certain key provisions. The briefing was sponsored by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Football League (NFL).

“I’ve seen, too many times, the effects of concussion not only on professional athletes but on children and adolescents,” said Stanley Herring, M.D., FACSM, who serves on the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee and is a team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Mariners. “The cost to individuals, their families, teams and communities is immense. I am proud that the NFL is the leader in concussion education and advocacy around the country and in Congress. The NFL’s good work will help protect athletes at all levels of sports.” Herring advocated for Washington State’s Zackery Lystedt Law, which has served as a model for similar legislation in other states.

“Effective concussion policies for our student-athletes must include provisions to address the needs of the ‘student’ as well as the ‘athlete’ role. Education of school personnel, student-athletes, parents and coaches is the foundation. Proper recognition and removal of the athlete from play is an important first step, complemented by providing the necessary academic support for that student’s learning. These are both equally essential to facilitate recovery,” said Gerard Gioia, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist who earlier testified at a hearing of the House Labor and Education Committee. “The bill announced by Chairman (George) Miller (CA-7) includes these critical elements. This legislation promotes a better understanding of the academic and athletic consequences of concussions and the key supports for the student-athlete.”

Medical experts were joined at the briefing by Sarah Rainey, a 15-year-old from Alexandria, VA, whose recovery from a soccer-field concussion took three months. Her story underscored the academic and social impacts of concussion, which can have an especially profound effect on a developing adolescent brain.

Sports-related concussions were brought into focus by recent studies showing their effects to be even more widespread and potentially more devastating than previously known. The National Football League has tightened concussion policies and encouraged governors to pass laws modeled on the Lystedt Law.

Sponsors and speakers of the Congressional briefing plan to continue advocating for state-by-state legislation modeled on the Lystedt Law while supporting appropriate federal concussion laws. The American College of Sports Medicine and other organizations have announced support for Rep. Miller’s “Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act.” Speakers at today’s briefing also spoke favorably of certain provisions in the ConTACT Act sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-8).

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The  American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 40,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

The National Football League is America's most popular sports league, comprising 32 franchises that compete each year to win the Super Bowl, the world's biggest annual sporting event. Founded in 1920, the NFL developed the model for the successful modern sports league, including extensive revenue sharing, competitive excellence, strong franchises across the board and national distribution. The NFL is the industry leader on a wide range of fronts. Business Week magazine calls the NFL "one of America's best-run businesses."

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