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New Federal Law Aims to Protect Young Athletes from Threatening Injuries

As concerns over concussions in young athletes grow nationwide, lawmakers have introduced federal legislation to protect student-athletes from these threatening injuries. Last month, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) announced the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act (H.R. 3580) to help schools implement concussion response strategies to safeguard the health of student athletes.

According to data collected from the National Federation of State High School Associations, an estimated 140,000 students playing high school sports suffer concussions every year, though many go unreported.

Recent research has shown that concussions may hit the female brain harder and that female athletes are simply more susceptible to concussions than their male counterparts. Women may also experience more severe and longer-lasting concussion symptoms than men due to smaller neck size and therefore lower neck strength. Much of concussion research to-date has focused on the male athlete; the riskiest sports for concussion often have being male-dominated — collision/contact sports like ice hockey, boxing/combat sports, football and rugby. However, multiple research studies have found in sports with similar rules between females and males, in particular soccer, basketball and baseball/softball, the rates of concussion are actually higher in women

According to a press release from Congressman DeSaulnier’s office, “H.R. 3580 would establish nationwide standards on concussion safety, and would encourage schools to develop practices that exceed national standards by taking a holistic approach to preventing, detecting, and treating concussions.” The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), is supported by key medical and youth sports organizations. These groups include American Academy of Neurology, National Athletic Trainers’ Association and the NCAA.

It’s shared in that same press release that the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act “would help address the growing concussion problem by bringing all states into compliance with evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of sports concussions. It would also require states that receive federal education funding to form concussion management teams, develop concussion guidelines for educating students, and establish policies to protect students suspected of sustaining a concussion from subsequent injury. The bill further focuses on academic recovery, which is a vital component for young students that is often overlooked in concussion planning.”

This federal law is being introduced after many states, including California, Alabama, Arizona and Connecticut, enacted their own legislation to protect athletes from concussions.

Congressman DeSaulnier previously introduced this legislation in 2017, during the 114th Congress. As part of this effort, he also secured opportunities for funding for schools to develop comprehensive concussions prevention and treatment plans in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (PL 114-95).