ALBANY, N.Y. — New York legislative leaders are pushing new protections for student athletes who get concussions, immediately benching those who may have a mild traumatic brain injury and keeping them sidelined from sports or gym classes until they’re symptom-free for at least 24 hours and get written authorization from a doctor.
Sen. Kemp Hannon, a Long Island Republican who chairs the Senate Health Committee, said the number of children hurt annually is alarming, though statistics are not now available.
“It happens far too much, but it’s not just the rate that counts. It’s our current awareness that this is a real injury, that a blow to the head is as bad as a broken arm, and needs time to recover, and you have varying times to recover for various people,” Hannon said.
The Assembly Education Committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that includes the new protections and also would direct the state Education Department, in consultation with the Health Department, to adopt the rules. It calls for each school district to establish a group responsible for staff training and student and parent education.
Both chambers are expected to act before the legislative session ends next week.
“We think we have everybody on board,” Hannon said. “We think we have all the interested groups involved.”
A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the governor was reviewing the bill.
According to the Mayo Clinic, concussions are usually temporary, but can include problems with headache, concentration, memory, judgment, balance and coordination. Most injuries are mild, don’t cause loss of consciousness, and most people usually recover fully, but need time to rest and heal.
They happen in scholastic football with its frequent helmet contact and also in lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, softball and hockey, Hannon said. It’s an issue with kids who think they’re just a little dizzy from a hit to the head and overzealous parents who say players aren’t really hurt.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the legislation creates a safer environment for student athletes by building a statewide standard for what happens after a concussion.
“These injuries can disrupt normal brain function and must be treated appropriately to avoid serious, long term medical conditions,” he said.
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, who chairs the education committee, said several legislators have had a long term interest in head concussion guidelines for student athletes.
Among the groups issuing statements in support of the bill were the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and the NY State Athletic Trainers’ Association.
Judith Avner, executive director of Brain Injury Association of New York State, said the injuries are more than a bump on the head. “An undiagnosed concussion can affect a student’s abilities at school and in everyday activities,” she said.
—Copyright 2011 Associated Press