Health

Bill aims to reduce brain injuries in young student athletes

Measure regulating how schools would respond to symptoms of concussion heads back to House

(File photo) An athletic trainer discusses her concussion protocol decision of Kennedy’s Sam Pape (left) after Pape took a hard landing on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. A bill advancing in the Iowa Legislature would incentivize school districts to keep such trainers on hand during athletic events, proponents say. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
(File photo) An athletic trainer discusses her concussion protocol decision of Kennedy’s Sam Pape (left) after Pape took a hard landing on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. A bill advancing in the Iowa Legislature would incentivize school districts to keep such trainers on hand during athletic events, proponents say. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Student athletes would be better protected against concussions and districts would have an incentive to keep trainers on hand during student events under legislation discussed last week in the Statehouse.

Meant to bolster a similar bill passed in 2011, the measure that aims to reduce traumatic brain injuries — caused by repeated concussions — in young athletes in grades 7 through 12 saw movement as the Senate passed it Wednesday on a 49-0 vote.

Among its provisions, House File 2442 requires that a student immediately be removed from an interscholastic activity if the coach, an official or a licensed health care provider observes any signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion or brain injury. The student would be unable to return to the sport or activity until he or she has written clearance from a licensed health care professional.

The bill also would provide some protection to school districts against liability “for any claim for injuries or damages” if the district provides a licensed health care provider at an interscholastic activity — and only if that professional acts reasonably in the best interest of the student.

“The main point is that it’s going to incentive school districts to have an athletic trainer or a professional health care provider at these athletic events,” said Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa. “So when a student-athlete is injured or concussed, there’s somebody on hand that’s going to have professional medical training to apply to this particular student-athlete in this situation.”

Bowman emphasized the bill would not mandate school districts have a licensed health care provider — a physician, nurse, physical therapist, athletic trainer among others.

The bill headed back to the House last week since senators added an amendment that includes a return-to-play protocol and return-to-learn plans.

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The Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Education and the girls’ and boys’ high school athletic unions should work together to develop a protocol for a student’s return to an activity after a concussion, the amendment said.

The amendment also includes language that school districts should develop policies to accommodate the student as he or she returns to the classroom after a concussion.

According to 2017 guidelines from the Public Health Department, some students experience concussion symptoms days after an injury. So, advocates said, it’s key to offer the student accommodations when he or she returns.

Recommended accommodations include rest periods, adjusting due dates for school work or allowing sunglasses for light sensitivity.

Lauer said research shows students offered these adjustments typically recover from their concussions faster rate.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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