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Panel tweaks concussion prevention bill, sends on to House

Panel tweaks concussion prevention bill, sends on to House

Dustin Hurst
March 22, 2010
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March 22, 2010

A bill to get tough on concussion prevention has passed the House State Affairs Committee, with a few changes initiated by the bill's sponsors, Rep. Liz Chavez, D-Lewiston, and Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello.

The first version of the legislation featured a two-pronged manner of attacking youth concussions in the state.  The initial version directed parents, coaches, and players to undergo training in identifying concussions and also ordered coaches in public schools to remove players from practices or games when they are suspected of having suffered concussions.  If a player was removed from a game under the provisions set forth in the initial version, that player would have been required to receive a written clearance note from a licensed medical doctor or physical trainer before getting back into practices or games.

In last Thursday's hearing on the bill, several lawmakers expressed concerns that coaches, without proper medical training in identifying concussions, could be held liable in court if that coach didn't properly identify a concussions.

Monday, the bill's sponsors came back with a few changes to satisfy committee members.  In the changes, more leeway was given to coaches in identifying concussions.  The new language says that if it is obvious a player has suffered a concussion and the coach shows  "gross negligence"  by not removing the athlete from practice or a game, that coach could be liable for litigation.

Another change is the removal of the concussion information sheet proposed in the original legislation.  The old bill required parents to sign a concussion information sheet for their young athletes each year.  The new bill doesn't contain that requirement because the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA) already has a sheet that serves a similar purpose, said Smith.   Also, under the new bill, the Idaho State Board of Education would be required to determine when players should return to play after suffering a concussion.

The committee unanimously approved sending the bill to the House's amending order to confirm the changes to the legislation, but Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, may work to remove certain parts of the plan.  Crane, a former athlete and coach, said that he feels the that though the education aspect of the bill is good and could lead to good changes in the Idaho sports, he believes the provisions making the coach liable to lawsuits isn't fair.  He told lawmakers he will try to make the bill solely for educational purposes when it comes to the House floor.

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