Monthly Archives: May 2012

Michigan’s Concussion Bill Expected to go to Senate Floor in Next Few Weeks

As concern over sports-related concussions increases, the Michigan Legislature is considering passing a bill aimed at protecting youth athletes. Senate Bill 1122 is currently awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 1122 would require “a youth athlete to be removed immediately from an athletic activity if he or she were suspected of having a concussion, and require written clearance from a qualified licensed health professional for the athlete’s return.”

In addition, the Michigan Department of Community Health (DCH) would be required to develop educational materials and a training program related to concussion awareness, including making the information available on the department’s website. The educational materials would include all of the following: the nature and risk of concussions; the criteria for the removal of an athlete from physical participation in an athletic activity due to a suspected concussion, and his or her return to that activity; and the risks to an athlete of not reporting a suspected concussion and continuing to physically participate in the athletic activity.

Within a year of the bill taking effect, the DCH would also be required to promulgate rules identifying individuals required to participate in the training program.

Senate Bill 1122 would also require “an organizing entity that sponsored or operated an athletic activity to comply with the training program requirements and provide the educational materials to each participating youth athlete (i.e., an athlete younger than 18 years old) and his or her parent or guardian.”

In addition, an organizing entity would be required to obtain and maintain, in a permanent file for the duration of that youth athlete’s participation in the athletic activity, a signed statement acknowledging a youth athlete’s receipt of the educational materials, and any required written clearance, and make them available to the DCH upon request.

As used in the bill: “athletic activity” means a program or event, including practice and competition, during which youth athletes participate or practice to participate in an organized athletic game or competition against another team, club, entity, or individual. “Athletic activity” includes participation in physical education classes that are part of a school curriculum.

“Concussion” means a traumatic injury to the brain causing a change in a person’s mental status at the time of the injury, such as feeling dazed, disoriented, or confused, which may or may not involve a loss of consciousness, resulting from any of the following: a fall; a blow or jolt to the head or body; and the acceleration and deceleration of the head.

An “organizing entity” refers to any of the following: a school; a state or local parks and recreation department or commission or other state or local entity; a nonprofit or for-profit entity; or a public or private entity.

A “school” means a nonpublic school, public school, or public school academy as those terms are defined in section 5 of The Revised School Code, 1976 PA 451, MCL 380.5.

“The number of children suffering concussions during organized athletic activity is rising at an alarming rate and is impacting the lives of many young people throughout Michigan and nationwide,” said Sen. John Proos R-St. Joseph in a statement. “This program would help everyone involved recognize concussions and brain injuries when they occur and put in place guidelines for when a young athlete can play again after suffering a concussion.”

The bill, which was approved by the Senate Health Policy Committee, is also supported by the Detroit Lions. “What the NFL and the Detroit Lions are working to establish is a standard of care across the country, so that youth athletes, coaches and volunteers are knowledgeable enough to recognize the signs of concussion and kids get the attention they need to recover before returning to play,” said Lions President Tom Lewand in a press release.

If Senate Bill 1122 is passed, Michigan would join 35 other states that currently require youth sports organizations to have concussion-awareness guidelines. The NFL is also making an effort for legislation to be passed in all 50 states. “We think this bill, should it become law, will be a really effective way to change the landscape across sports, number one, and number two, protect young athletes in every sport,” said Lewand.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) already has guidelines in place for dealing with concussions, which would not be subject to the legislation. The MHSAA’s Protocol for Implementation of National Federation Sports Playing Rules for Concussions, which is similar to Senate Bill 1122, states “Any athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms, or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion, or balance problems) shall be immediately removed from the contest and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health care professional.”

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What Do Concussions Have to do with the NFL’s Equipment Mandate?

What was the real motive behind the NFL’s announcement last week that it was requiring its players to wear thigh and knee pads for the 2013 season?

It could have been that the NFL genuinely cares about its players. Don’t laugh. The lockout aside, the NFL has, over the years, acted like a father might act around his children, punishing where necessarily or,  more importantly in this case, protecting them.

Another motive might have been for the league to continue to demonstrate a pattern of looking out for the health interest of its players. While it may have nothing to do with the past, regarding concussion research and what the NFL did or did not know, such a pattern may influence a jury, or at least the public’s perception of how much the NFL cares about its players.

More likely, however, its motive is one of strengthening its image as the concussion litigation draws near. The NFL doesn’t want to settle these cases unless it has to. The stronger the “Shield,” the more options the league has to ride this out.

One potential ally the NFL will not have at it’s disposal is the NFL Players Association. When the announcement of the equipment mandate was made, Union head DeMaurice Smith sought to subtly expose the NFL’s motive in a well-thought out statement:

“Any change in working conditions is a collectively-bargained issue.  While the NFL is focused on one element of health and safety today, the NFLPA believes that health and safety requires a comprehensive approach and commitment.  We are engaged in and monitor many different issues, such as players’ access to medical records, prescription usage and the situation with professional football’s first responders, NFL referees.  We always look forward to meeting with the NFL to discuss any and all matters related to player health and safety.”

 

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Concussion Lawsuits May Soon Blanket College Football

Listen carefully. You can hear the noise.

It may be just a matter time before a flood of lawsuits are brought by former college football players, who experienced one too many dings in the head while representing their school on the gridiron.

FoxSports Kansas City ran a story yesterday — http://www.foxsportskansascity.com/05/23/12/Macho-culture-at-forefront-of-concussion/landing_kstate.html?blockID=734776&feedID=5089 — that quoted Johnno Lazetich, a former Kansas State University football player as saying:

“It’s beautiful that the NFL alumni association are lobbying as hard as they are. There needs to be something at the college level for all of us who blew out their knees, blew out our shoulders, in addition to concussions. There needs to be help for us.”

A few days earlier, another story ran in the Phoenix Business Journal, where sports lawyer Travis Leach of Jennings, Strous & Salmon noted that there has already been lawsuits filed against the NCAA, college football teams and their medical personnel.

Leach added: “Depending on what the outcome of these pending cases are, complaints could extend to individual universities and medical professionals who worked for teams and/or universities.”

And as we have seen with the NFL, where one concussion lawsuit is filed, many, many more will follow.

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