A new youth concussion prevention bill passed the House State Affairs Committee Thursday and will now head to House floor for consideration.
The measure, 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.
To get the bill passed, interest groups 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 and 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.
Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, who spearheaded a youth concussion education bill two years ago, said despite her legislation, young athletes continue to suffer traumatic head injuries on the field of play. “Please, please pass this bill,” Smith pleaded.
But Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, asked the committee to send the bill to the House amending order for changes, citing concerns about some of the language in the legislation. “Let’s advance it, do it through general orders and fix it,” said Crane.
Other lawmakers came to the bill’s defense and killed Crane’s maneuver. Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, said the legislation may not be perfect, but it’s a step forward. “We cannot make a perfect bill here, we don’t have that ability,” Anderson said. “I’m not saying this bill is perfect, but by golly the world is not going to end if we pass this for our students.”
Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, told the story of her son’s concussion, which inspired her support of the measure. “I see this bill for what it is and it’s a public health issue,” McGeachin said. “I see how serious it is.”
Crane again affirmed his hesitancy to the plan, warning that the onus shouldn’t necessarily be placed on the coach to make the decision to remove an athlete from play. “I also know that you can get caught up in the emotion of the game and make a decision you regret,” Crane said.
The committee passed the bill 15-3.
See the video of the shot that led to Kaiserman's concussion in the 2010 Maaco Las Vegas Bowl below: