Oklahoma was one of the earlier states to pass legislation regulating how traumatic brain injuries and concussions are handled in youth athletics, but lately activists have been urging the state to update the laws to reflect the more recent findings surrounding the risk of brain injury.
One such law intended to reform concussion management and treatment in high school and youth sports showed promise of being passed after clearing the state Senate easily and being cleared by the House’s Common Education Committee by a vote of 16-1. However, the bill ultimately floundered on the House floor and Senate Bill 1790 was voted down by a count of 45-39.
As NewsOK reports, the bill was researched and written by a group led by Lauren Long, co-founder of Concussion Connection, and UCO Athletic Training Program Director Jeff McKibben.
When asked about the failure to pass the bill, Long called it a “discouraging and upsetting day in Oklahoma sports history,” but she concluded the she believed the bill didn’t pass at least partially due to the lack of education about recent concussion findings and the dangers associated with them.
“We worked extremely hard on making sure that this piece of legislation was up to date in terms of research, management and overall protocol for how sport-related concussions should be handled,” Long said. “It’s very disappointing to see that Oklahoma will remain one step behind the rest of the country when it comes to youth sports and concussion safety.”
The current law, signed into effect in May of 2010, was based on a previous set of laws passed in Washington state, known as the Zackery Lystedt Law. Under this legislation, school districts are required to develop concussion guideline and education programs, as well as requiring youth athletes and a parent/guardian sign and return a concussion and head injury information sheet on a yearly basis.
The law also mandates the immediate removal of a player if concussion is suspected, and rules that they must be cleared by medical staff before the athlete can return to practice.
SB 1790 would have maintained many of those requirements, but it also set more specific rules than previous legislation. The bill was nearly six times longer than the current legislation, and included several key points:
- A specific chain of accountability for an athlete suffering from concussion symptoms, starting with the athletic trainer, if available, then the coach, then the official.
- Penalties will be put in place for the mismanagement of an athlete with a concussion. The first violation will result in a one-month suspension for the responsible party. The second violation is suspension for the remainder of the season. The third violation will be permanent suspension from involvement in any athletic activity.
- The bill included the “Return to Learn” policy regarding a concussed student’s eventual return to the classroom. The concern is that students are put back in school before the brain has healed enough to fully function in the classroom.