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Concussion regulation bills likely to be filed again

footballOfficials in University of Mississippi Medical Center will again support legislation that establishes guidelines for how to treat concussions in youth sports and requires concussion education among coaches and officials.

Three different bills that would have done that died in committee during the 2012 session.

Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, authored one of the bills. He said it was his understanding that last year was the first time the issue had been raised at the Capitol.

New issues often don’t fare well in the Legislature, even the ones popular with the majority party. An example is charter schools, which had support from Republican leadership but still failed.

“I think last year started the conversation about the issue of concussions and how we handle them, especially with children,” Barker said, adding that it’s likely he’ll introduce the legislation again. “Hopefully that conversation will continue next year (during the session that starts in January).”

The tension with the concussion bill lies with legislators who are reticent to impose any more regulation than necessary on youth coaches who almost always are working on a volunteer basis, Barker said.

“There’s a fine line between protecting our children and being too burdensome,” he said.

Last year’s legislation would have affected children between 7 and 19 years old who participate in organized youth sports. It would have required coaches, officials, volunteers, youth athletes and their parents be provided with a ream of concussion education-related material before the start of every season. Coaches would be required to complete a concussion recognition education course every year.

Athletes who exhibit concussion signs and symptoms would be held out of competition until they are cleared by a doctor.

Most youth sports leagues have existing policies that govern treatment of a concussed athlete, and that govern when that athlete can return to competition.

Dr. Williams Mustain, director of the Vestibular Lab at UMMC and the head of a baseline concussion testing project there, said a uniform set of rules would keep some leagues from slipping through the cracks.

“We think this makes a lot of sense,” he said. “It doesn’t cost anything and it offers a complete layer of protection and protocol for handling young athletes who might have suffered a concussion.”

>>CONTINUE READING UMMC hoping to enlist young athletes for new baseline concussion test

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About Clay Chandler