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PA Safety in Youth Sports Act

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.

Nathan Kegel, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, discusses the specifics of the act:

What are the Key Points of the Act?

The key points of the Safety in Youth Sports Act include new guidelines and standards for managing concussions in student-athletes. The Act states that:

  • 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
  • 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

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 prolonged recovery.

What kind of medical provider should my child see if they have a concussion?

Seeking proper medical attention is an important step in your child’s recovery from a concussion. While many pediatricians and primary care physicians do offer concussion management, this is a complex injury with many treatment considerations. The UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program includes a multidisciplinary team of providers expertly trained in the evaluation and management of concussion. Our experts include:

  • Neuropsychologists
  • Primary care sports medicine physicians
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians
  • Neurovestibular rehabilitation therapists
  • Exertion physical therapists
  • Athletic trainers working in the local school systems

In choosing a provider, it is important to understand the extent of their training in concussion management, along with the resources they have available to provide comprehensive treatment of this complex injury.

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.