Washington, D.C. – The Brain Injury Association of D.C., Children’s National Medical Center, the Washington Redskins and the National Football League testified today in strong support of the “Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011” -- landmark legislation to protect youth and disabled athletes from the dangers of concussions. Representatives of these organizations testified at a public hearing of the D.C. Council’s Committee on Health.
Ira Sherman stated, “The Brain Injury Association of D.C. has focused on the needs of the community’s most vulnerable population: youth and disabled athletes. As much as brain injury continues to be one of the lesser understood and appreciated health issues in our community, that is even more the case with these segments of the population,” said Mr. Sherman. “We drafted this Act to be the most comprehensive of any law dealing with youth and disabled athletes and concussion. As the Nation’s Capital, we should serve as a leader and set the example for other states to follow.”
“While the national dialogue about this legislation has focused primarily on the protection of the youth athlete, we cannot ignore the consequences of a concussion on the academic learning and performance of the student-athlete,” said Gerard Gioia, PhD, director of the Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program at Children’s National. “Our current research finds adverse effects on school learning in close to 90% of students in our clinics, with significant worsening of post-concussion symptoms when they attempt cognitive tasks. In our experience, these problems persisted well beyond a month for many students. We must provide effective treatments that maximize the student’s recovery and minimize any long-term post-concussion problems.”
Kenneth Edmonds of the National Football League added this: “The NFL is playing a leading role in addressing the issue of concussions for our players as well as athletes at all levels, and in all sports.” Edmonds touted the immediate and positive impact the law will make in Washington. He said this about the bill, “It will help to reinforce on this city’s playgrounds the same rule that governs NFL fields. It is this: the medical decisions of health care professionals take precedent over the playing decisions and passions of coaches and players.”
“The Washington Redskins believe that strict return-to-play guidelines should apply to youth athletes,” said Larry Hess, the Washington Redskins’ Head Athletic Trainer. “We know from medical experts that children and teenagers are more susceptible to the worst consequences of concussion and recover more slowly than adults. Young athletes should and must be protected. This bill does just that and the Redskins organization is pleased to support it.”
According to recent research, concussions occur frequently in student-athletes, with 400,000 known occurrences at the high school level from 2005 to 2008. The functional effects of a concussion on youth athletes are wide ranging, affecting their thinking and learning, as well as their social and emotional functioning. The “Athletic Concussion Protection Act of 2011” would require a youth or disabled athlete to be removed from practice or play following a suspected concussion and allowed to return only after receiving written clearance by a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions. The measure also would direct city agencies to develop an awareness and training program for coaches, youth athletes, parents and guardians as well as school personnel.
This bill is modeled after the Zackery Lystedt Law, enacted in the State of Washington in 2009. Lystedt-type laws – named after a student who was permanently disabled following a traumatic brain injury suffered while playing football at his junior high school – have since been passed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia and New Jersey.
Participants on the panel included:
- Ira Sherman, Vice President, Brain Injury Association of D.C., the lead organization which drafted and is championing this legislation
- Dr. Gerard Gioia, Director, Safe Concussion Outcome Recovery & Education (SCORE) Program, Children’s National Medical Center
- Kenneth Edmonds, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, National Football League
- Larry Hess, MPT, ATC/L, CSCS, Head Athletic Trainer, Washington Redskins.
- Brain Injury Association of D.C.: Ira Sherman, (202) 569-8140
- Children's National Medical Center: Emily Dammeyer, (202) 476-4500
- National Football League: Brian McCarthy, (212) 450-2069
- Washington Redskins: Tony Wyllie, (281) 415-4942