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Bills Will Address Problem of Concussions Among High School Athletes

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) has introduced two bills to address the problem of recurring concussions and life-threatening injuries among high school athletes. AB 1646 will add training on potentially catastrophic injuries, such as head and neck injuries, asthma attacks, and heatstroke, to the CPR and first aid certification required of all California high school coaches. AB 1647 will require athletes suspected of having a concussion to get a doctor’s written permission before returning to play. Below are Assemblymember Hayashi’s prepared remarks from today’s capitol news conference announcing the introduction of AB 1646 and 1647.

“Too many high school athletes return to play too early after a head injury, placing them at risk for another concussion. Multiple concussions can result in brain bleeding and swelling, and related health problems such as sleep disorders, memory loss, and depression.

I am pleased that state leaders and advocates have joined together to discuss the impact such injuries are having on student health and safety. It is a serious problem, as the Center for Injury Research and Policy reported that 41 percent of high school athletes who suffered a concussion returned to play prematurely. Because their heads and necks are still developing, high school players are at risk for greater injury and need a longer recovery time. The American Academy of Family Physicians showed that the incidence of catastrophic head injuries is more than three times greater among high school football players than college players.

But football is not the only sport, and this is not just about boys and men. In 2008, an NCAA study reported that concussion rates were higher in women than in men in soccer - 27 percent higher. They were also higher in basketball (66 percent), and in ice hockey (80 percent). In fact, a 2009 American Journal of Sports Medicine article showed that female athletes are suffering more severe symptoms from multiple concussions than male athletes.

I have introduced two bills to address this problem and increase student safety. AB 1646 will add training on concussions and other potentially catastrophic injuries, such as asthma attacks and heatstroke, to the CPR and first aid certification required of all California high school coaches. AB 1647 will require medical clearance from a health professional before a student can return to play following a sports injury.

AB 1646 is similar to the laws passed by Oregon and Texas. Oregon’s 2009 law mandates annual concussion training for coaches. School sports officials also keep players off the field for the rest of the day when injured, and mandate a medical evaluation before they return. In 2007, Texas passed “Will’s Bill,” requiring every high school coach to be trained in basic safety and emergency procedures, with special emphasis on concussions and second-impact syndrome. AB 1647 is similar to Washington State’s law, which is considered the nation’s toughest return-to-play law. It passed last year, requiring medical clearance of youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion before they go back to training and competition.

Our kids believe that they need to be tough and play through the pain when injuries occur, so they’re unlikely to tell anyone when they think they have a concussion. It’s also hard for parents to say no to their kids when they want to go back and play. We need to help the adults around student athletes become more aware of the problem, and empower them with laws that put the health of the player first. 2010 should be the year that California resolved to take concrete steps to protect its student athletes. Through these bills, we can better protect our kids, allowing them to be the athletes they want to be, without sacrificing their safety.”

Website of Assemblymember Hayashi: www.asm.ca.gov/hayashi

Here are links to audio of Assemblymember Hayashi and others at today’s news conference:

Assemblymember Hayashi’s opening remarks at today’s news conference. (2:30) mp3

Assemblymember Hayashi explains why AB 1646 and 1647 are needed to protect student athletes. (:17) mp3

Remarks from Assemblymember Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), principle co-author of the legislation. (1:53) mp3

Remarks from Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), a co-author of AB 1646 and AB 1647. (1:18) mp3

Remarks from Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), a co-author of the sports injury legislation. (:38) mp3

Beth Mallon, a San Diego area mother of a young man who suffered a major sports injury, talks about why she feels AB 1646 and 1647 are so important. (:34) mp3

Tommy Mallon, Beth’s son, talks about how the athletic trainer saved his life after he was injured. (:45) mp3

Mike West, President of the California Athletic Trainers Association, says the need for AB 1646 and 1647 is critical. (:23) mp3

Contact: Ross Warren (916) 319-2018