Concussions are a disturbingly common occurrence for student athletes — one that can affect their experience in the classroom as well as on the playing field. New state guidelines aimed at recognizing and appropriately treating concussions are now headed to Connecticut schools.
The new guidelines, approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) last week, go into effect July 1, 2015, and require the following.
- Prior to taking part in athletic activities high school athletes and their parents or guardians will be required to read materials, watch videos, or attend in-person training regarding the school district’s concussion plan.
- Parents and guardians must sign an informed consent form that includes a summary of the district’s concussion plan.
- Coaches must complete training to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions and learn how to get appropriate medical treatment for students.
Coaches also must immediately remove any student participating in athletic activity who exhibits symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion or who is diagnosed with a concussion. Parents or legal guardians must be notified as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after such removal. Before a student can return to any team activities, a licensed health care professional trained in evaluating concussions must provide written clearance
The new guidelines for schools fulfill a requirement in Public Act 14-66: An Act Concerning Youth Athletics and Concussions, which the legislature passed in May of last year.
Diana Coyne, a Westport parent whose son suffered many concussions playing football, told the SBE that, while the guidelines are an important step in the right direction, Connecticut needs to improve its concussion laws further and still lags behind many other states in the nation.
The successful implementation of the law will be contingent on how districts implement the guidelines and the support they receive from the state, according to Pippa Bell Ader, another Westport parent who formed the Parents Concussion Coalition with Coyne after her son experienced concussions participating in school activities. Ader encouraged the SBE to take an active role in enforcing the law.
“I urge the creation of an ongoing task force that works with student athletes and those who have sustained concussions,” said Deb Shulansky, director of community outreach and support for the Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut.
State Department of Education Chief Operating Officer Charlene Russell-Tucker said that her department recognizes that the guidelines can’t “just sit on a shelf.” She said that, as the science around preventing and managing concussions improves, the documents will need to be updated and additional resources will need to be created.