By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coaches and school athletic directors would be required to complete a concussion safety education course under legislation that’s headed to the governor for his consideration.
The measure, which would require schools and other organizations with youth athletic programs to adopt concussion policies, was overwhelmingly approved 93-3 in the House on Thursday. The companion bill unanimously passed the Senate 30-0 last month.
The legislation is similar to laws passed in 42 other states and the District of Columbia that include provisions requiring students to be removed from an event if they show concussion symptoms like headaches, dilated eyes or vomiting.
The Tennessee proposal would require schools to adopt guidelines to educate coaches, school administrators, athletes and their parents about the symptoms and dangers of concussions. Under the measure, injured students wouldn’t be able to resume the sport until a medical professional clears their return.
“There are a lot of people who don’t know what a concussion looks like,” said House sponsor Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville. “The last thing you want to have happen is a kid that has the concussion symptom get pulled out of the game because he was knocked out for a few seconds … and not know that he might have a concussion, and send him back in and he’s 3 to 6 times more likely to have a more severe concussion.”
The safety course for coaches and athletic directors would be developed by the state Department of Health. The course includes a “concussion signs and symptoms checklist” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A similar Tennessee proposal failed in the Legislature last year. Sponsors of the current legislation said there were concerns about who should be the authority on whether a student can resume play, but that issue seems to have been resolved.
The measure has largely bipartisan support. Gov. Bill Haslam spokesman David Smith said the governor would review the legislation and “likely sign it.”
“This is one of those bills that took a few times to get right,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Jackson. “I’m glad it’s here.”
Rep. Jason Powell, who played football in high school and college, said he understands the importance of such legislation.
“Anytime there are head injuries, especially when you deal with youth, it’s something we need to take very seriously,” said the Nashville Democrat. “And I think this legislation will help protect our youth who are active in sports.”
Last month, the Youth Sports Safety Alliance released recommendations aimed at protecting the nearly 8 million students participating in high school sports each year.
Among the recommendations was requiring students to have a pre-season physical exam, including testing for some of the 400,000 concussions students suffer annually.