The Idaho Legislature has taken a positive step to help young athletes who suffer concussion-like symptoms in sporting events. But now the ball is in the schools’ court, and if they don’t return serve, this legislation won’t really matter.
Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill requiring schools to develop rules for when students should be pulled from athletic events after suffering a possible concussion. All it needs to become law is Gov. Butch Otter’s signature.
Inspired by the National Football League’s recent attention to concussions and steps taken to address them, Idaho’s legislation requires the state Board of Education and Idaho High School Activities Association to provide access to information on how to identify a concussion based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards. This information is to be made available to kids and their parents at the start of the season, and also to referees and athletic trainers.
This is a good start. Without knowing what symptoms to look for, and just what the consequences of a concussion are, people involved in athletic events are flying blind.
But what happens next? That’s where the real challenge lies.
The bill says “If ... it is reasonably suspected that a youth athlete has sustained a concussion or head injury and exhibits outward signs or symptoms of such … the youth athlete shall be removed from play. Every Idaho ... school that participates in or offers an organized athletic league shall develop protocol to be followed for removing such athletes from play.”
“Reasonably expected” leaves room for interpretation, and such judgment can be clouded by the spirit of competition in the heat of battle, as pointed out by Nampa Rep. Brent Crane. A competitive coach could be tempted to downplay the severity of an injury to keep his star players on the field.
Furthermore, leaving it up to schools to develop protocol for removing athletes opens the door to a myriad of different policies from school to school. Larger schools with bigger budgets can afford larger training staffs with more medical knowledge, whereas smaller schools might not have that luxury.
Assuming Otter signs this bill, the burden will fall on schools to take it seriously. They should. Concussions shouldn’t be taken lightly. Safety always needs to come first, and schools need to be rigorous about enforcing that.
If you’re the parent of an athlete, learn as much as you can about this and keep a close eye on your child. And don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re concerned.
* Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Kim Keller, Carlos Soriano, Timothy Brown, Taylor Raney, Ken Pieksma and Nicole Gibbs.