A bill backers say will prevent youth from sustaining unneeded concussions has cleared the Idaho House and now heads to the Senate.
The measure cleared the House on a 59-7 vote.
The bill, the second of its kind this legislative session, would require student-athletes to be pulled from sporting contests if it’s suspected they sustained a concussion. Young athletes would be required to undergo a medical evaluation and receive a doctor’s clearance before returning to the field of play.
Coaches, their assistants and athletic directors would be responsible for pulling athletes suspected of concussions.
The legislation would also shield local school districts and coaches from lawsuits if the proper protocols are followed in removing an athlete from play. The immunity clause is new to the plan and it’s likely prior bills to achieve the same goals died in the House because they lacked the legal shield for public officials.
But Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, testified that relying on coaches to pull athletes would be unwise. “Coaches sometimes don’t make decisions that are in the best interests of the players,” said Crane, who coaches some youth sports. “We get caught up in the game. Sometimes their emotions cause them to make decisions not in the best interests of the athletes.”
Rather, Crane would like to see an impartial judge in the sporting event decide if players should be yanked from games. “I think it should be the ref, or the ref in consultation with the coach,” Crane urged.
The bill’s sponsor, House Majority Mike Moyle, R-Star, argued a coach’s knowledge of the situation could prove valuable if an athlete is suspected of having a concussion. “The coach is generally the person that knows those athletes better than anyone else,” Moyle said.
Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, said the bill is simply feel-good legislation, and that the Idaho High School Athletics Association already has prevention protocols in place. Batt noted that the National Football League (NFL), caught up in a scandal where a defensive coach paid players to hit other athletes to take them out of games, lobbied on behalf of the measure.
“I argue this is an NFL image enhancement bill,” said Batt.
To get the bill passed, interest groups, including the NFL, used a little star power by bringing in former Boise State University football player Matt Kaiserman, who played running back for the school. Kaiserman suffered a number of concussions in his career, including a devastating career-ending one in the 2010 Maaco Las Vegas Bowl against the University of Utah.
Kaiseman urged lawmakers to protect Idaho’s youth by passing the bill and warned that the concussion problem is more prevalent than is commonly thought. “I can’t stress enough that this is an injury that affects thousands,” the former running back said in committee.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a retired pediatrician, said the legislation would create a “culture of safety” on Idaho’s playing fields and courts.
Only Republican Reps. Vito Barbieri, Dalton Gardens; Batt; Crane; Dick Harwood, St. Maries; Shannon McMillan, Silverton; Paul Shepherd, Riggins; and Kathleen Sims, Coeur d’Alene, opposed the legislation.
See the video of the shot that led to Kaiserman's concussion in the 2010 Maaco Las Vegas Bowl below: