NFL backs head-injury bill
Topeka Legislation aimed at protecting young athletes from head injuries in school sports has won the backing of the NFL and Kansas City Chiefs.
But several members of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee wondered on Monday if Senate Bill 33 was an overreach by government, while another said the measure didn’t go far enough.
Dr. Bart Grelinger, a neurologist from Wichita, said the legislation represented “a great start” but needed more work.
The proposal would require that an athlete who appears to have suffered a concussion be removed from practice or a game. It also would require clearance from a health care provider before the youth could participate again, and provide education on head injuries to youngsters, parents and coaches.
Grelinger said concussions represent nearly 9 percent of all high school athletic injuries. “We are getting leaner, meaner, faster and have more agility, and that means head injuries,” he said.
And because concussions are invisible — unlike a broken arm or twisted ankle — sometimes children are sent back “in harm’s way” before they should go, he said.
He said the proposal, which currently covers school sports, needs to be expanded to cover sports outside of school, such as soccer clubs.
Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan and a physician, had a problem with the bill allowing a licensed health care provider to provide approval for a student to resume sports. Reitz said that decision should probably be left up to a specialist, such as a neurologist.
David Carr, who is director of the athletic training education program at Kansas University, said the bill should ensure that whoever OKs a student’s return should be trained and up to date on the management and treatment of concussions.
“Our knowledge on concussion is advancing every day,” he said.
Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, said legislators often tout that schools should be locally controlled. “This appears to possibly be another step in micromanaging how the school districts run their operations,” he said.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt submitted written testimony in support of the legislation.