Over the past several years increased attention has been paid to head injuries and concussions in sports. The NFL seems to capture most of the headlines in this area; however, head injuries can occur in any sport and at any level. Last week, Governor John Kasich signed House Bill 143, which is designed to protect youth athletes who suffer concussions.
The Bill requires parents to submit a signed form acknowledging receipt of a concussion and head injury information sheet that will be created by the Department of Health. Students are prohibited from practicing or competing in interscholastic athletics until this form has been submitted. Districts must also require all coaches and referees to hold a pupil-activity permit issued by the State Board of Education (referees may satisfy the requirement through specified alternative training programs). The Bill also requires the State Board of Education to require completion of brain trauma and brain injury management training prior to issuing pupil-activity permits
An important component of the Bill is the requirement that student-athletes be removed from athletics when exhibiting signs, symptoms, or behaviors consistent with a concussion or similar head injury. Once a student is removed by a coach or referee, the student is not allowed to return to practice or competition for at least 24 hours and until assessed and cleared for return by a physician. The physician must provide written clearance that it is safe for the student to resume participation.
Also of importance is the immunity from liability that is provided by the Bill. School authorities, employees, and volunteers (including coaches and referees) are protected from civil liability for injury, death, or loss that arises from providing the services or duties required by the Bill, unless their act or omission constituted willful or wanton misconduct.
Under the Bill, the Department of Health is required to create a concussion and head injury information sheet for sports participants and to provide a link on its website to one or more free online concussion training programs.