Although it didn’t seem to get a lot of coverage in the media, the bill introduced by a Norfolk lawmaker to increase health protections for student athletes with suspected head injuries was signed into law by Governor McDonnell several weeks ago. The measure is meant to prevent athletes from getting back on the field or court prematurely.
Under the legislation sponsored by State Sen. Ralph S. Northam, a Norfolk a pediatric neurologist who has personally treated many teenage athletes for brain trauma, coaches are required to sideline any player with concussion symptoms until the student is cleared to return to action by a licensed health professional in writing.
The law also requires players and their parents or guardians to review information on the health effects of concussions each year. They then must sign a statement acknowledging that they have received that information.
In the Falls Church News-Press, State Health Commissioner Karen Remley expressed strong support for the law.
“Any blow to the head in a child or youth that is followed by changes in behavior, thinking or physical function needs prompt medical attention,” Remley said.
She wants students to know that if they continue to play after sustaining a concussion, they are risking a serious, long-term brain injury and, in some cases, death.
Senate Bill 652 also requires the Virginia Board of Education to develop policies regarding concussions for local school districts with a deadline of July 1, 2011. A blow to the head is apparently one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and teens who participate in extracurricular activities.