Tennessee lawmakers are sending a bill to Gov. Bill Haslam that would focus more attention on children’s concussions in athletics, although the changes would primarily affect students here participating in out-of-school sports.
According to Metro Nashville Public Schools Spokeswoman Olivia Brown, the district currently follows concussion policies set by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. The TSSAA’s provisions already satisfy the legislation’s requirements, said the bill’s sponsor.
“A lot of times we can look at and tell what a broken bone looks like, but sometimes it’s hard to determine what a concussion is,” said Rep. Cameron Sexton, who sponsored the legislation. He said the bill was aimed more at the schools, or communities that charge a fee to participate in sports, that don’t already follow the TSSAA’s guidelines.
The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in a 93-3 vote of approval in the House of Representatives Thursday and a 30-0 vote in the Senate last month. The bill has no real enforcement power, said Sexton, but instead establishes a standard for athletic groups to follow.
“We don’t want some overzealous coach sending someone back into a game when he knows there may be a problem,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.
Brown said the district currently follows the TSSAA concussion policy, which can be found here. It states, “Any player who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) shall be immediately removed from the game and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health-care professional.”
The bill on its way to the governor for approval is three-pronged: it requires parents, coaches, teachers and children be taught how to recognize concussions and the dangers related to them; it also requires children showing signs of a concussion be removed from games; and it bans them from returning to the sport until they’ve been approved to do so by a medical professional.
If OK’d, the law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.