With more young people participating in sports, and the level of play more competitive than ever, the occurrence of concussions and other head injuries among student-athletes has also grown. That’s why in 2012, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Safety in Youth Sports Act.
The purpose of the law is to help prevent serious head injuries and promote education about the risks of concussions. It outlines the proper management of concussions and brain injuries, and sets a clear expectation for treatment.
What are the Major Provisions of the Act?
The major provisions of the Safety in Youth Sports Act include new guidelines and standards for managing concussions and traumatic brain injuries in student-athletes. The Act states that:
- Coaches must immediately remove any student-athlete suspected of a concussion from play, with stiff penalties to those not in compliance
- Student-athletes cannot return to play until cleared, in writing, by an appropriate medical professional as defined in the Act
- Information regarding concussions provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Department of Education must be properly distributed to all student-athletes and their parents
Why is this Act Important to Students, Coaches, and Parents?
The Safety in Youth Sports Act not only raises awareness and recognition of this complex injury, but it also helps to ensure better clinical management for all student-athletes. In educating coaches, student-athletes, and parents, injuries may be recognized sooner. Early recognition allows coaches and athletic trainers to direct the student-athlete to appropriate medical attention sooner, which may reduce the likelihood of protracted recovery.
Who Can Make the Return to Play Decisions?
In order to return to play, a student-athlete must be cleared by an “appropriate medical professional.” This designation includes:
- Licensed physicians who have been trained in the evaluation and management of concussions
- Licensed or certified health care professionals trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and designated by such licensed physicians
- Licensed psychologists who have trained at the postdoctoral level in neuropsychology, as well as in the evaluation and management of concussions
In other words, a provider who has not had specific training in the evaluation and management of concussions is no longer qualified to make return to play decisions. It is important for parents to understand this stipulation and to seek proper medical attention in that regard.
If a Coach Does Not Comply with the Act, What are the Repercussions?
As noted, there are stiff penalties for coaches not complying with the Act. For those who do not follow the safety standards set forth by the Act, the law sets the following repercussions:
- First violation – suspension from coaching any athletic activity for the remainder of the season
- Second violation – suspension from coaching any athletic activity for the remainder of the season and for the next season
- Third violation – permanent suspension from coaching any athletic activity