As the nation continues to debate increasing safety in contact sports, Tennessee lawmakers are looking at legislation that would require schools and other organizations conducting youth athletic programs to adopt concussion policies.
The measure was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. A similar proposal failed last year.
Rep. Cameron Sexton is the sponsor of the House version of the bill.
Under the proposal, schools are required to “adopt guidelines … as approved by the department of health to inform and educate coaches, school administrators, youth athletes and their parents or guardians of the nature, risk and symptoms of concussion and head injury, including continuing to play after concussion or head injury.”
Sexton didn’t specify issues with the measure that have been worked out, but he said all parties involved seem to be pleased with the current version, which also appears to have bipartisan support.
“We’ve worked hard with all the groups from last year … and they’re all on board with this version of the bill,” said Sexton, R-Crossville.
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama said in an interview on CBS during a Super Bowl pre-game show said that, if he had a son, he would have to think about whether he would let him play football.
Obama, who has two daughters, said the threat of concussions for football players means that everything possible should be done to improve their safety — especially players from youth football leagues through college.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said later that the league is funding research to learn more about the risks and changing rules to make the game safer.
NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch, who oversees law and labor policy for the league, told The Associated Press that 42 states — and the District of Columbia — have passed laws similar to the one being proposed in Tennessee.
“We’ve been supporting this type of legislation for a number of years … with the goal of trying to have a law like this in every state,” said Birch, who was to speak before the Senate Education Committee.
This 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.
Texas, the state with the largest number of student athletes, already is following most of the advocates’ requirement. Each school district is required to have a concussion-prevention program led by at least one medical professional.
Tennessee House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said it’s time for the state to consider similar policies.
“Sports are getting a bit more violent,” said the Ripley Democrat, who is a co-sponsor on the legislation. “It just seems like the smart thing to do.