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Youth concussion bill heads to Otter’s desk

Youth concussion bill heads to Otter’s desk

Dustin Hurst
March 22, 2012
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March 22, 2012

A bill backers say will prevent youth from sustaining unneeded concussions has cleared the Idaho Senate and now heads to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk.

The measure cleared the Senate on a 34-0 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.
Senate floor sponsor Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, told colleagues that the bill is about youth health. “It’s all for the safety of the athletes,” Darrington said. “That’s what this is all about.”

Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, voiced support for the bill, but warned that some of the provisions within the legislation could be tricky to implement for schools. Johnson, a high school referee, said not many schools have licensed physicians at sporting events who could check out an athlete’s health if a concussion is suspected.
“This is bill is going to create some problems, some concerns for the schools,” Johnson said.

The legislation would 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.

The Idaho State Board of Education would develop the protocols for removing athletes from play, rules that would be subject to legislative oversight.

To get the bill passed, interest groups, including the National Football League, 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.

Kaiserman told lawmakers in both legislative chambers that there are many misconceptions about concussions and that more needs to be done to prevent them.

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