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The legislation in the General Assembly would require youth sports programs that use public school property to establish procedures for identifying and handling concussions in athletes.
The Roanoke Times | File 2011
Coach Brian Sutphin (right) talks with members of the Auburn Eagles, a youth football league team in Montgomery County, before the start of a game. Eight players wore helmets outfitted with equipment that measured head impact for a Virginia Tech biomedical research study.
The Roanoke Times | File 2011
Charlie Carter, 7, of Riner wears one of the eight football helmets equipped with sensors that were monitored by the Virginia Tech research team.
Monday, February 18, 2013
RICHMOND — A bill to require recreational sports groups to establish concussion procedures is making progress in the General Assembly.
SB 1252 by Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, is a narrower version of a similar bill that failed earlier in the session. It requires nonscholastic youth sports programs that use public school property to establish procedures for identifying and handling concussions in their athletes.
The House Education Committee approved the bill 16-5 Monday, sending it on to the House for a vote. It unanimously passed the Senate.
Earlier in the session, a House education subcommittee voted down a more extensive bill, HB 1719, under concerns it would be too onerous for youth sports leagues. It would have required concussion training for coaches and implementation of a return-to-play protocol that would have required a doctor’s approval for a young athlete suspected of having a concussion to return to play.
Del. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William County, said he still has concerns with Northam’s version.
“We have to be very, very careful about what we say to people who are not under the public education domain, even if they use the property,” he said. “I understand what you’re trying to do here, but I think we’re in a better place from a policy standpoint to encourage good behavior than to mandate it.”
Concussions remain a major topic of debate at all levels of football, including youth leagues.
Salem Parks and Recreation Director John Shaner and Virginia Tech head athletic trainer Mike Goforth helped organize a “Concussion Summit” at Virginia Tech’s Merryman Center last summer for about 100 youth, rec league and high school coaches from across the state. Others who spoke at the summit included Dr. Del Bolin, director of the Center for Sports Medicine in Salem; Stefan Duma, head of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences and project director of a research team studying helmet safety; and Salem High School athletic trainer Chris Tucker.
All spoke about recognizing, treating and preventing concussions and their lasting effects.
“I know as a parks and rec director that we need to try to educate as much as we can and put good information out,” Shaner said. “And this is more of us being ahead of the curve and trying to educate and be willing to make sure people in our region, our parents have the best information they can have.”
Bolin’s presentation focused on identifying the symptoms of players who have suffered a concussion, such as confusion, disorientation, nausea, headaches and emotional changes.
He said the key to recovery is to recognize the concussion early and allow players to rest, adding that athletes who suffer a second concussion before the symptoms from the first are cleared open themselves up to worse consequences.
The group distributed a lanyard with common symptoms of concussions and tests to see if a player has suffered one.
Tucker, a longtime Salem trainer, shared his own rule: When in doubt, keep them out.
“Sixty percent of the concussions are reported 10 percent of the time,” Tucker said. “These players want to play. These parents want their kids to play. Be very careful.”
He stressed that coaches immediately contact parents and medical professionals in the case of concussions, urging them to document their dealings to avoid legal troubles.
Meanwhile, in a first look at the youngest athletes playing tackle football, a small Virginia Tech study released last year recorded the force of head impacts on 7- and 8-year-old boys playing football on a Montgomery County rec league team.
The main finding: The smallest youth football players sometimes sustain hits to the head that equate to those seen in elite college athletes.
“I think you could characterize several of the findings as very surprising,” said Duma, who conducted the study.
Similar research has been conducted for a decade on adults, but as concerns about concussions have grown, the researchers focused on the effects facing the nation’s 3.5 million youth players. The researchers’ goal is to gather enough data to rate youth helmets based on how well they protect a child’s head.
Of the 753 hits recorded throughout the rec team’s fall season in 2011, six were at a level that would be considered a big hit for college players, according to the findings.
This story contains information from previous articles written by Roanoke Times staff writers Andy Bitter and Sarah Bruyn Jones.
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