State legislators concerned with head injuries

football helmet

There’s been a lot of attention on how head injuries are affecting football players, and athletes, on all levels—including when they are very young. Stakeholders concerned about this issue hope new protocols will sufficiently prevent serious injuries.

Last year, the state legislature passed a measure that provides protocols for head injury protections for student athletes in West Virginia. These guidelines require coaches to have course training on head injuries and concussions, as well as being mandated to remove players from competition who are suspected of having concussions. It’s something that State Senator Ron Stollings said there’s a specific mission with these new rules.

I think this bill is a good bill, we will see it being implemented as we speak. Me, being a volunteer physician on Friday nights, I have to take that educational piece myself. It’s a good thing,” said Stollings.

Also under the guidelines, a concussion and head injury sheet must be signed and returned by the athlete and the athlete’s parents before practice or competition begins, to make officials aware of previous injuries. If a player has been removed from a game due to a head injury, that person may not return to action until he or she has written clearance from a licensed health care professional.

Gary Ray with the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission said these new guidelines give “teeth” to his organizations, and other interested parties, in protecting students. But he says parents must also play a role.

I was guilty when I played sports, you didn’t want to tell mom or dad because you might not get to play the next day. You’ve got to let people know, you’ve got to communicate. Mom and Dad work with their child, they need to make sure they are in constant communication with the school if they feel this is an issue,” said Stollings.

Senator Stollings said he wants to make sure that all medical professionals like him, who administer to athletes during games, are protected from excess liability issues.

I think just basically saying that volunteer physicians while at a volunteer event, Friday night football, that you would have coverage by the Board of Risk and Insurance Management,” said Stollings. “I’d like it to be spelled out in statute, that we’re covered, a volunteer physician.

One final requirement of the new guidelines is that when students do suffer a concussion or head injury in a practice or game, a report must be sent from the school to the WVSSAC within 30 days of the injury. The report must state whether an evaluation, done by a medical professional, verifies that a concussion has occurred. This report must also state how many days it’s been between the injury and athlete’s return to competition.