The revisions to Virginia student-athlete concussion law this past spring seemed straightforward enough, but an overlooked amendment included in the law is catching some by surprise.
Included in the law is a provision that recreational teams that either practice or play on public school property in Virginia are now required to establish policies that identify and handle possible concussions.
Daniel Schlitt, director of the Falls Church City Recreation and Parks Department, was one of many caught off-guard by the stipulation.
“This is the first time we’ll be dealing with a [major] health and safety issue,” he said.
Fall Church City's Recreation and Parks Department has basketball, flag football and soccer programs that use public school spaces, though Schlitt doesn't think it's likely a policy will be in place in time for the fall season.
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According to the Falls Church Times, "a legal review by the City's attorney would be the first step."
The revised law was moved forward at the urgings of Michelle and Gil Trenum of Nokesville, VA. Their 17-year-old son Austin took his life in 2010, just days after suffering his second concussion.
State senator Richard Stuart, who sponsored the new law, was similarly moved by a concussion his son suffered at just 15. “He had to stay in a dark room with no stimulation…I had no idea that it was so serious,” he said.
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Virginia passed their initial concussion law in 2010, and it mandated that high school student-athletes be taken out of play when a concussion was suspected. It also ordered that players could not return until cleared by either an athletic trainer or health care provider.
The new amendment specifies that "non-interscholastic youth sports programs utilizing school property” need to either adopt the local school division's policy, or create their own — as long as it meets the local school division or the Virginia Board of Education's standards.
Advocates of the new amendment say that it's not supposed to function as a burden, but rather promote awareness. “Nobody expects [experts] to be engaged at the sidelines,” said Stuart. “But certainly, there are signs of concussion that can be observed [and acted upon].”