Congress Approves Bill to Protect Student Athletes

Concussions, if not properly managed, can have serious long-term effects and, in the most severe cases, can even result in death. On September 30, 2010, the House of Representatives, by a majority vote, approved a bill that would help protect student athletes from these serious ramifications. (1)

The Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act (ConTACT Act) was written by Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell. It would require that the Department of Health and Human Services hold a conference of professionals from the athletic, medical and educational fields to set guidelines for managing concussions, including setting standards for when student athletes should be allowed to return to their sport following a concussion. The bill would also allow for grants to be issued to states looking to purchase concussion testing equipment and institute concussion management policies. (1)

A concussion occurs when the brain is pushed around inside the skull and can be caused by a direct hit to the head or a sudden stop. Not every concussion causes unconsciousness. Symptoms, however, include dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light/noise, headaches, and trouble concentrating. (2)

Pascrell was inspired to write the ConTACT Act following incidents involving two New Jersey student athletes: Ryne Dougherty, who died in 2008 as a result of returning to a football game too soon after suffering a concussion; and Nikki Popyer, a former basketball player who still suffers the ramifications of multiple concussions, including constant headaches and the inability to drive. (3)

Concussions among school athletes are widespread. In the 2008-2009 school year, high school athletes suffered more than 400,000 concussions, according to the Center for Disease Control. (4) Pediatric Magazine published a study which found that, among 8- to 13-year olds, emergency room visits for concussions doubled in the 10-year period 1997-2007; the visits tripled for 14- to 18-year-olds in the same period. (2)

Currently about 175 New Jersey high schools required neurological baseline testing for students participating in sports. Parcell hopes that the new bill, through grants, would enable the remaining New Jersey schools to provide such testing. (4)

The ConTACT Act has now been referred to the Senate. Senate approval of the same legislation is required before the bill can be signed into law by the President.





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