Sports Health bill to require concussion recognition course for coaches & more
If approved into law, each government agency and each private association that sponsors youth athletic activities will require that each coach with primary supervisory responsibility and all individuals who officiate youth athletic competitions, complete an annual concussion recognition course.
The Department of Health is to be responsible for the contents of the course and setting forth required head trauma guidelines for coaches and officials.
The bill, which was introduced in the House, is co-sponsored by Representatives Taotasi Archie Soliai, Larry Sanitoa, Pulelei’ite Li’amatua Tufele, Va’amua Henry Sesepara, Mauagoali’i Leapai Sipa Anoa’i, Faimealelei Anthony Fu’e Allen, Vailoata Eteuate Amituana’i, Talo Lemapu Suiaunoa and Toeaina Faufano Autele.
According to the proposed measure, concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries in children and adolescents who participate in sports and recreational activities.
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention estimates that as many as 3,900,000 sports and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year.
“A concussion is caused by a blow or motion to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. The risk of catastrophic injury or death is significant when a concussion or head injury is not properly evaluated and managed," says the bill.
“Concussions are a type of injury that can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. Concussions can occur in any organized or unorganized sport of recreational activity, can result from a fall, or from players colliding with each other, with the ground, or with obstacles.
“Concussions occur with or without loss of consciousness, but the vast majority occur without loss of consciousness and continuing to play with a concussion or symptoms of head injury leaves the young athlete especially vulnerable to greater injury and even death.
“The Legislature finds that awareness of sports concussion injuries and the proper management of such injuries needs to be increased, and without required concussion recognition education and without recognized return to play standards for concussion and head injuries, some affected youth athletes may be prematurely returned to play resulting in actual or potential physical injury or death to young athletes in American Samoa,” says the bill.
The concussion recognition education course is to include information on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion, which means obtaining proper medical attention for a person suspected of having a concussion and also provide information on the nature and risk of concussions, which includes danger of continuing to play and the proper method of allowing a youth athlete, who has sustained a concussion, to return to athletic activity.
The DOH, in collaboration with public and private sector partners, are to be the agency responsible for providing the required concussion recognition courses, and the DOH Director is to certify successful course completion and may designate specific education courses as sufficient to meet the requirements of this measure.
Individuals without sole supervisory responsibility or primary responsibility, who volunteer for youth athletic activities, are encouraged to complete the concussion education course described in the bill.
According to the measure, if the coach or official suspects a youth athlete has sustained a concussion, the coach/official is to remove the athlete from the game, competition or practice, and can stop the youth from playing or participating in practices or competition without a written clearance by a health professional allowing the athlete to return to play.
A coach, official, the government, or the governing board of a private association is not to be held liable for any civil damages that result from a sports concussion, if the requirement is substantially complied with, and the acts or omission are not grossly negligent, willful or wanton.
A party of interest, including the parents or legal guardian of a youth athlete may petition the High Court of American Samoa for injunctive or declaratory relief for enforcement of the concussion recognition education course and in such action, the prevailing party as determined by the court, is entitled to recovery of attorney fees and costs, also as determined by the court.