INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would add protections for student athletes with concussions and require additional safety training for some coaches.
The Senate voted 45-1 to keep high school athletes with suspected concussions off the field for at least 24 hours. The legislation also would require high school football coaches and assistant coaches to receive training in player safety and head injuries.
The bill, which now moves to the House for approval, comes just days before the Super Bowl and amid increased scrutiny of NFL players' concussions.
Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best, who says defective helmets and concussions shortened his career, filed a lawsuit against the league Tuesday. And earlier this week, national legislation to fund and implement concussion guidelines in schools and youth leagues got NFL support. The 2008 death of a New Jersey high school football player spurred the national legislation.
The Indiana bill strengthens laws already in place to prevent or better treat concussions. High school athletes and their parents currently must sign a waiver with information about the risk of injury before playing, and athletes pulled for suspected concussions cannot return to play without clearance from a health care provider.
"Football is the most complex sport to play and the most complex sport to coach," said co-author Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle. "I have had more phone calls from head coaches in our high schools saying this is something that we have to have."
Emergency departments treat about 173,285 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries in children each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. Numbers are highest in football, with about 55,000 a year, and girls' soccer, with about 29,167.
Concussions cause headaches, dizziness, loss of memory, and trouble sleeping and concentrating. The CDC says that returning concussed players to the field can lead to a longer recovery and, in rare cases, brain damage or death.
Regulations similar to those proposed in the bill already are in place at schools in the Indiana High School Athletic Association, Bobby Cox, the organization's commissioner said.
"We've been doing that for years," Fort Wayne's Snider High School Athletic Director Russ Isaacs said. "It's pretty common concussion protocol."
But home-school and other teams don't face those requirements, Cox said.
Other coaches for contact sports such as hockey and soccer will face no new training requirements if the legislation passes. Some have called for more expansive action.
"The law is really high school; it doesn't apply to middle school or youth leagues," said Indiana Sports Concussion Network Co-Director Dr. Hank Feuer, who spent almost four decades as a sports medical consultant for Indiana University. "Some states leave coverage more rigid, covering more than Indiana."