California Law Addresses Concussions in High School Sports

In response to much of the recent news on the relationship between sports and traumatic brain injuries, a new California law requires high school coaches to receive specific training regarding concussions. California Governor Jerry Brown signed the law, created through Assembly Bill 1451, in August 2012. The law went into effect on January 1, 2013. With the increasing media coverage of the Junior Seau case in San Diego, this law is continuing to make news in our area.

What the Law Says
Assembly Bill 1451 is an amendment to Section 35179.1 of the Education Code, which relates to high school athletics.

In short, the law requires high school coaches to undergo training “every two years on recognizing the signs of concussions and responding to them appropriately.” In order to make these requirements, the law established a California High School Coaching Education and Training Program. Under this program, school districts are required to emphasize specific issues. When considering traumatic brain injuries in high school athletes, some of the relevant provisions include:

Developing certain coaching philosophies that are “consistent with school, school district, and governing board of a school district.”
Creating a specific sport psychology, which emphasizes communication among school athletics coaches and personnel, and reinforces the “efforts of pupils” and the “effective delivery of coaching regarding technique and motivation of the pupil athlete.”
Establishing a sport pedagogy, which considers how “pupil athletes learn” and “how to teach sport skills.”
Developing a sport physiology, which includes “principles of training, fitness for sport, development of a training program, nutrition for athletes, and the harmful effects associated with the use of steroids and performance-enhancing dietary supplements by adolescents.”
Sport management, dealing with team and risk management.

Establishing a training protocol, which includes “a basic understanding of the signs and symptoms of concussions and the appropriate response to concussions.” In addition, specific concussion training is required, which can be acquired through a variety of free and/or online training courses.

The last of these provisions, as you’ll see, connects directly to concerns about the long-term effects that athletes can experience as a result of concussions. And these concerns are not just for professional athletes. These injuries can occur in high school sports, and this new law seeks to promote awareness about the severity of teenage head injuries. 2010_Michigan_State_Football_Helmet.jpg

How the New Law Will Help Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries
According to a study in the Journal of Athletic Training, the two highest rates of concussions in American high schools occur during football games or practices (with 47 percent of reported concussions) and girls’ soccer (with 36 percent of reported concussions).

Democratic Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi proposed Bill 1451 that went into effect this past January after she had already worked on additional sports-related legislation the previous year. Before proposing Assembly Bill 1451, Hayashi “pushed through successful legislation” in 2012 that required schools to “remove from play, pending medical clearance, a student athlete who sustains a possible concussion.” In conjunction with this regulation in California schools, the new law should have a positive effect on limiting concussions in high school sports.

In fact, an article in the California Health Report indicated that the law has already alerted many coaches in southern California that they need to be vigilant when it comes to head injuries. And now that they’re required to undergo training, these coaches will know what to look for in case of a traumatic brain injury. The Chairman of the Brain Injury Association of California remarked that many coaches are actually relieved to have access to this kind of training.

If you or a loved one have experienced a concussion or other traumatic brain injury, you may have a claim. Contact an experienced California attorney today to discuss your case.

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[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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