Senate Bill Aims to Protect Youth Athletes From Concussions

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U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced a new bill that aims to keep youth athletes safe from concussions and head injuries. 

The Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act to strengthen elementary and secondary school procedures for preventing, identifying, and treating student-athletes who sustain concussions.

The National Federation of State High School Associations estimates that about 140,000 students playing high school sports suffer concussions every year, though many go unreported. Despite potential long-term impacts, concussions are not always easily diagnosed, and symptoms do not always manifest themselves immediately.

Durbin’s bill requires states to adopt a “when in doubt, sit it out” policy, which prevents student athletes suspected of having sustained a concussion from returning to play the same day and only allowing them to return to play once they have been evaluated and cleared by a qualified health care professional. The “when in doubt, sit it out” policy is based on an American College of Sports Medicine’s 2021 report on concussions and the American Academy of Neurology’s guidelines on sports concussions that recommend that any athlete suspected of a concussion should not return to play on the day of their injury under any circumstance. 

“A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that affects brain function, and the ‘walk it off’ mentality is not in the best interest of athletes.  Instead, it can lead to long term consequences.  We must take head injuries seriously, especially when it comes to youth sports,” said Durbin in a statement. “Implementing a ‘when in doubt, sit it out’ policy will protect the health of our students on the field, court, and track.” 

"The American College of Sports Medicine has been a longtime advocate for the health and safety of all athletes, including youth athletes,” said Anastasia Fischer, M.D., FACSM, President of the American College of Sports Medicine. “We enthusiastically support this legislation.  Education, assessment, identification and standard guidelines are not just good ideas, they’re potentially life-saving.”

Organizations endorsing Durbin’s Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act include: American College of Sports Medicine, American Academy of Neurology, Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), National Lacrosse League (NLL), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), Premier Hockey Federation (PHF), U.S. Soccer Federation, Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy, American Physical Therapy Association, Illinois High School Association, National Association of Schools Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS), National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), Pop Warner Little Scholars, Safe Kids Worldwide, The Arc, and The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). 

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