To use a tired football cliché, the letter that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NCAA president Mark Emmert recently sent to 19 governors that urged them to support legislation that would protect youth football players from concussions was a win-win.
Not only do the men and their respective entities appear as if they genuinely care about the issue, which they probably do, but they also are putting their considerable brand behind the initiative, which should affect change.
Currently, 31 states have laws similar to the Zackery Lystedt Law, which was named after a middle school football player who sustained brain damage after prematurely returning to the field before recovering from an initial concussion. The law requires that youth players, who may have sustained a concussion, be evaluated by a licensed health care professional trained in concussion evaluation and management before returning to play.
What follows is the letter:
Dear Governor Snyder,
The NFL and the NCAA request your leadership on an important matter affecting youth athletes in your state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 3.8 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur each year in the United States. More alarming than the high occurrence of this injury is the impact a concussion can have on the developing brain of a young athlete.
The NFL and the NCAA follow strict policies to properly manage concussions among the more than 400,000 student-athletes and nearly 2,000 NFL players competing each year. These policies focus on increasing concussion awareness through a variety of outreach efforts, properly identifying concussion symptoms, and implementing conservative return-to-play guidelines.
Similar safety measures should be followed in all levels of sport. To protect youth athletes, the NFL and the NCAA have joined together to urge leaders throughout the country to support legislation to create a safer playing environment. Such laws contain three key elements and are modeled after the Zackery Lystedt law which was passed in Washington State in 2009:
1. Youth athletes, parents and coaches must be educated about the nature and risk of concussions each year;
2. If a youth athlete is suspected of sustaining a concussion, he/she must be removed from a game or practice at that time, and;
3. A licensed health care professional trained in the evaluation and management of concussions must clear the youth athlete to return to play.
To date, laws containing these provisions have been passed in 31 states and the District of Columbia. We urge you to support the introduction and passage of similar legislation in your state this year.
As you consider the importance of this youth sports concussion legislation, we would be please to provide any additional information to you and your staff. Please ask your staff to contact Jeff Miller at the NFL at Jeff.Miller@NFL.com or Abe Frank and the NCAA at Frank@NCAA.org. Additionally, further resources can be found online at www.nflhealthandsafety.com and www.ncaa.org/concussions.
The health and safety of tomorrow’s leaders is at stake- and it will take a collaborative effort between sports and political leaders to generate awareness of this dangerous injury. We hope to add you to the growing number of leaders across the country, who are working to protect our youth athletes.