Just prior to the start of the high school football season, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin appeared at Lane Technical High School to introduce legislation that would improve safety conditions for student athletes.
Called the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussions Act, the bill would strengthen procedures for concussion prevention, identification and treatment among student athletes in grades K-12. This legislation is timely, as the National Football League agreed this week to a $765 million settlement for former players who had experienced head injuries during their time with the NFL. More than 4,500 retired players were a part of this law suit, many of them having suffered severe cognitive injuries due to the concussions they obtained while playing professional football.
“Injuries are a part of all sports, but as we learn more about the long-term effects of concussions and how frequently they are ignored, it is clear we need to do more to confront this health risk,” said Senator Durbin.
The National Federation of State High School Associations estimates that about 140,000 students playing high school sports suffer concussions each year. And because developing brains are more susceptible to injury, these athletes are at greater risk for concussions than adults. However, a 2010 study by the Government Accountability Office found that many such concussions go unreported, thereby increasing a child’s vulnerability to further injury and chronic cognitive issues.
Senator Durbin’s bill would direct states to develop concussion safety guidelines for public school districts, including posting educational information on school grounds and websites about concussion symptoms, risks and recommended responses for student athletes. The bill would also institute a “When in Doubt, Sit Out” policy that would require students suspected of having a concussion to end their participation in a sport until receiving a written release from a medical professional.
CPS is supportive of Senator Durbin’s efforts, as the District already maintains a strong concussion management policy. Requirements of this policy include education and training for athletic directors, coaches, school nurses, recess supervisors and P.E. teachers.
“We want to ensure the health of all our student athletes,” said Dr. Stephanie Whyte, Chief Officer of Student Health and Wellness for CPS. “We prioritize student safety and applaud measures that improve their ability to perform in the classroom, on the field, and later in life.”
Introducing this legislation at Lane Tech was fitting, as this CPS high school maintains the largest athletic program in the city of Chicago.
“We have thousands of student athletes,” said Dr. Christopher Dignam, principal at Lane Tech, “and whether it’s in the hallways or on the athletic fields, we are always concerned about their safety.”
If it successfully passes Congress, Senator Durbin’s bill will create a minimum standard for managing and preventing head injuries among student athletes – a prospect that Principal Dignam wholeheartedly supports.
“We work hard to prevent these kinds of traumatic injuries, but they happen,” he said. “Hopefully this legislation will go a long way toward improving how schools handle these very serious situations.”