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Protecting athletes who suffer concussions on the playing field.

POSITION: The WVSMA supports enacting state legislation to require appropriate safeguards for athletes who suffer concussions by requiring annual training for coaches and stipulating terms and conditions for return-to-play protocols, and also amending state legislation to provide liability protection and/or immunity for health care providers involved in athletic events.

ISSUE: Concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports, and the risk of catastrophic injury or death increases significantly if the concussion is not properly evaluated and managed.

The issue gained widespread attention in 2006 after a 13-yearold named Zachery Lystedt sustained a concussion during a football game. The boy returned to play after a short break and then became severely ill. After the game he had emergency brain surgery, and he is now confined to a wheelchair and has limited abilities. Zachery's home state of Washington enacted concussion legislation in his honor in 2009, and, since then, 40 other states have followed suit.

Some of the important aspects of an effective concussion management protocol include the following:

1. Athletes and parents should become informed about the risks associated with concussions.

2. Coaches should complete annual training on brain injury recognition and return-to-play protocols.

3. Any athlete suspected of sustaining a concussion should be removed from the game and not allowed to return to play until after being evaluated by an appropriate health care provider with specific training in concussion management and receiving written clearance.

In association with concussion management legislation, the WVSMA also supports modifying state law to increase liability protection or immunity to health care providers who offer medical services at athletic events. This protection is important so that volunteers are not discouraged from offering emergency services.

Current West Virginia law, enacted in 2012, stipulates that volunteer team physicians who render services at school athletic events are liable for civil damages to the limits of their own professional liability insurance policy. The WVSMA recommends that the legislature should amend existing law regarding state insurance for school employees to specify that the Board of Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM) also provides liability protection for school volunteers.

In addition, the WVSMA recommends amending current state law regarding aid to accident victims (the so-called "Good Samaritan Law"). Current law states that anyone, including health care practitioners, who render aid in good faith at the scene of an accident or crime is immune from civil liability. The WVSMA recommends that this law should be amended to include any medical emergency, and should specify that "scene of an accident" also includes youth athletic events.

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Title Annotation:2013 Legislative Briefs
Publication:West Virginia Medical Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U5WV
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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