As Little Leaguers nationwide are gearing up for the coming baseball season, a new California law aims to protect them– and other youth sports participants– from concussions. An estimated 1.6 to 3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur in the U.S. every year. According to a study by Safe Kids Worldwide, 1.35 million children were treated in emergency departments during 2012 for sports injuries– 12% of which were concussions. The spotlight on sports concussions as a major public health concern has spurred laws in all 50 states that mandate education, removal from play, medical evaluation, and return to play protocols for schools and other organizations that offer athletic programs. California’s new youth sports concussion law, which applies to 27 different athletic activities, is modeled after the statutory requirements for middle and high school programs.
What are the new requirements?Specifically, youth sports organizations, businesses, governmental agencies, and non-profit entities that offer amateur athletic competition, training, camps, and/or clubs must now:
- Immediately remove from play any athlete suspected of having a concussion for the remainder of the day. The athlete shall not be permitted to return to athletic activity until he or she receives written clearance from a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions. If the licensed health care provider determines that the athlete sustained a concussion or other head injury, the athlete must also complete a graduated return-to-play protocol of no fewer than seven days in duration under the supervision of a licensed health care provider.
- Notify the parent whenever an athlete is suspected of having a concussion.
- Provide all athletes in the organization with a concussion information sheet annually and obtain parent/guardian acknowledgement signatures before participation commences.
- Offer annual concussion education/training for administrators and coaches (topics to be covered are specified by the law).
- Require all coaches and administrators to successfully complete concussion and head injury education before they supervise athletes.