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Bill would address youth concussions, but lawmakers have reservations about the plan

Bill would address youth concussions, but lawmakers have reservations about the plan

Dustin Hurst
February 14, 2012
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February 14, 2012

Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, introduced a bill Tuesday to address youth concussions inIdaho, but it may have been the easiest hearing he will see as his legislation wends its way through the Capitol.

The bill was introduced unanimously in the House State Affairs Committee, but several lawmakers expressed concerns about liability and concussion detection in the measure.

This isn’t the first time in recent years lawmakers have attempted to address the problem. In 2010, Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, brought a similar bill to the Statehouse, but it was stripped down due to concerns similar to the views expressed by lawmakers Tuesday. Smith’s bill ended up only requiring the Idaho High School Athletics Association to provide information about concussions on its website.

That law, Simpson said, isn’t enough to protect student athletes. “We still need to do more as a state to protect students from concussions,” he warned.

Simpson’s bill would require youth coaches not to play athletes suspected of concussions and students would need medical clearance in order to return to play. The measure would also require coaches to undergo concussion-detection training.

Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, expressed concern that bigger schools in urban areas of the state have access to resources not available in more rural areas that would aid in concussion detection and prevention. “It’s a whole different ballgame than what the schools in other areas have,” Batt warned.

Simpson defended his bill, saying that the uniform training mandate in the legislation would mean the same requirements for all coaches, regardless of resources.

Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Soda Springs, worried the bill would put too much pressure on coaches. “Are we putting too much responsibility on the coach?” Andrus wondered.

Still, Simspon stood firm, saying coaches can see above a game to recognize a student’s best interests. “I think coaches are going to make a responsible decision, even in tough games,” Simpson explained.

Committee vice chair Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told Simpson he is anxious about the liability coaches would face if they missed signs of concussions and were sued by parents. “I do have grave concerns about the coaches,” Crane said.

Simpson, again on defense, said coaches would likely be fine under the bill. “There is a certain amount of protection here.”

Rep. Carlos Bilbao, R-Emmett, sided with Simpson, telling committee members lawmakers need to do more to prevent athletes from irreparably harming themselves. “I’d like to see this mandatory for everyone who deals in youth sports,”Bilbaosaid. “I hate making laws for people’s action, but we have got to put a stop to this.”

The bill will receive a more thorough hearing next week.

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