Bill establishing concussion rules moves to governor's desk

MGN Online

A bipartisan bill designed to enhance concussion protocol for student athletes is on its way to Governor Kim Reynolds desk for signature, after getting final approval from the Iowa Senate Thursday.

The bill requires the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union work together to develop "return to play" and "return to learn" policies for student brain injuries so coaches and educators can spot the early warning signs of concussions and know when it's safe for a student to return to athletics and the classroom.

“I don’t think we’re always noticing unless we know what to look for," Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, who managed the bill.

Under the bill, coaches and contest officials would also receive training every two years.

“My son Mitchell has had three concussions and each time they followed a set of protocol before they let him return to play. The question is on the side of training.," said Sinclair, who noted that several schools already have this type of protocol.

"The question is on the side of training: are the people making these decisions for these students on the same page with the most up to date facts," Sinclair said.

Nathan Newman, director of the Master of Athletic Training Program at Drake University, supports the legislation, which passed unanimously out of the Senate Thursday.

He says brain injury research has evolved rapidly over the last 10 years and it's important coaches and educators know when students are in the clear.

"You’re looking for symptoms [of headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, confusion] to return. Those are red flags that ‘Hey you’re going too far, too fast. You’re allowing them to do too much,'" Newman said.

Newman says the bill, which was in the works over the past four years, is a great step forward to spread awareness of the dangers of concussions and how to best diminish the long term effects of brain injuries.

“We’re reaching a point where the general public is aware of concussions and the potential long-term damage. Now it’s starting to get to the subtleties of how do you return that athlete to play, to their normal life after they’ve had a concussion in a safe and effective way," Newman said.

The bill also recommends schools have a health care professional on the sidelines of any interscholastic game.

Though the legislation doesn't require this licensed health care provider, it limits potential legal liability if schools do this. Supporters of the bill hope this will be an incentive for school districts.

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