Managing Concussions in Student Athletes: The Safety in Youth Sports Act
With more young people participating in sports, and the level of play more competitive than ever, the occurrence of concussions and other head injuries among student athletes has also grown. That’s why the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Safety in Youth Sports Act into law in July 2012.
The purpose of the act is to prevent serious head injuries in student athletes and promote education about the risks of concussions. It outlines the proper management of concussions and brain injuries, and sets a clear expectation for how to treat them — with extreme importance and care.
Preventing and Managing Concussions
The Safety in Youth Sports Act:
- Sets uniform standards for managing concussions and traumatic brain injuries in student athletes.
- Imposes stiff penalties to those not complying with the act.
- Assigns the proper duties to the Pennsylvania departments of Health and Education.
Coaches must immediately remove any student athlete suspected of a concussion from the game. The athlete cannot return until cleared in writing by an appropriate medical professional.
The act states that only a licensed physician, licensed neuropsychologist, or other licensed medical professional trained in the diagnosis and management of concussion can treat and release a student athlete for return to play.
Efforts to Improve Safety
Coaches are often times the first line of defense in recognizing a concussion, taking immediate action, and removing an athlete from play.
For those who do not follow these safety standards, the law sets the following repercussions:
- First violation = suspension from coaching any athletic activity for the remainder of the season.
- Second violation = suspension from coaching for the remainder of the season, as well as the next season.
- Third violation = permanent ban for life from any coaching activity.
Knowledge is Power
Education is an important aspect of the law.
It encourages schools to hold informational meetings prior to the start of each athletic season, to discuss:
- Concussions and other head injuries.
- The importance of proper concussion management.
- How preseason baseline concussion testing can aid in the evaluation, management, and recovery process.
Informational meetings may include:
- Student athletes
- Athletic trainers
- Physical therapists
The law also requires the departments of Health and Education to post guidelines and other relevant materials — both online and in schools — to inform and educate students participating in any athletic activity, their parents, and their coaches about the nature and risk of concussion and traumatic brain injury.
The Safety in Youth Sports Act — combined with the efforts of players, parents, coaches, and medical professionals — looks to prevent serious head injury and raise awareness of how to properly deal with a concussion.
Read the Safety in Youth Sports Act at www.legis.state.pa.us. Or, watch UPMC Sports Medicine's informational videos on concussions to learn about the signs and symptoms of concussion, what to do if an injury occurs, and much more.