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Concussion-education bill passes Senate, House

BY MICHELLE MCCONNAUGHEY | MARCH 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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West High sophomore Xavier May said he hated sitting out two weeks of the last football season because he had suffered a concussion.

“I wanted to get back in the game and play, but my dad forced me to stay out,” he said.

Those decisions could become more commonplace, thanks to new state legislation that passed the Iowa House on Wednesday.

On Feb. 7, Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, and Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, introduced a bill that would enforce more measures for concussion protection for student-athletes. The Senate voted 50-0 in favor of the “Youth Sports and Concussions” bill on March 15, and the bill passed the House unanimously Wednesday.

In the Iowa City School District, high schools have previously implemented new procedures for head injuries. City High and West High both started to use ImPACT Neurocognitive assessments for all high-school athletes in contact sports this academic year.

The testing gives a baseline reading for athletes in a non-concussed state. If the athlete is believed to have suffered a concussion, her or she takes a post test which compares the post test results to their baseline reading, said Jennifer McHenry, a City High athletics trainer.

“I think the bill is an excellent idea,” she said. “The more athletes and parents are aware of concussions, their symptoms, and the difficulties people can have after a concussion, the better off we are.”

Under the legislation, all school district administrators in Iowa must inform and educate coaches, student-athletes, and parents on the risks of concussions and other head injuries before the start of their sport’s season. If a student is suspected of having suffered concussions, he or she must be removed from participation. The athletes may not come back to participate in practices or games until parents sign information sheets and the players are released by licensed health-care providers, provisions that don’t exist at present.

“Sometimes, we all get so competitive in the games that we forget about the importance of safety,” said Bowman, also a football and wrestling coach in the Maquoketa School District for the past 15 years.

He said more precautions should be taken with concussions because these injuries can affect people for the rest of their lives.

“My hope is that all people involved, including parents, athletes, schools, and coaches, can all get on the same page of education about concussions and understand the further danger of concussions,” Bowman said.

Each year, emergency rooms nationwide treat roughly 135,000 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

West High head football coach and Dean of Students Brian Sauser said he sees concussions in his athletes each season.

“Kids want to get back in the game, so tests are good help so we can make sure they’re ready for it,” he said.

Sauser’s players agreed that the new rules can be beneficial.

West High junior Anthony Brown said that though he has never had a concussion, he said he thinks the rules are necessary for his teammates who have had head injuries.

“I’ve always thought people should sit out longer so they don’t get more hurt and jeopardize their futures,” he said.


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