NFL supports Proos concussion awareness bill

LANSING – Legislation to require youth sports organizations, including schools, to adopt a concussion awareness program was approved Thursday by the Senate Health Policy Committee.

“The number of children suffering concussions during organized athletic activity is rising at an alarming rate and is impacting the lives of many young people throughout Michigan and nationwide,” said Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, sponsor of the bill. “This program would help everyone involved recognize concussions and brain injuries when they occur and put in place guidelines for when a young athlete can play again after suffering a concussion.”

Under Senate Bill 1122, all organizing entities that offer youth athletics will adhere to a Concussion Awareness Program that includes awareness training, distribution of educational materials for parents and athletes and criteria for the removal of a youth from physical activity. 

“Concussions are serious brain injuries that are increasingly affecting young athletes,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “Establishing concussion awareness programs will help parents and coaches make youth sports safer.” 

The National Football League (NFL) is leading an effort to get similar legislation passed in all 50 states and Congress. Detroit Lions team president Tom Lewand testified in support of the bill, telling the panel about the impacts of concussions and the need to address it at all levels of sport.

“What the NFL and the Detroit Lions are working to establish is a standard of care across the country, so that youth athletes, coaches and volunteers are knowledgeable enough to recognize the signs of concussion and kids get the medical attention they need to recover before returning to play,” said Lewand.

“More and more we are hearing about tragic deaths and severe injuries suspected of being linked to brain damage caused by concussions,” said Sen. Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion, chair of the committee. “I want to thank Tom Lewand, the Detroit Lions and the NFL for helping increase awareness that concussions are a serious health issue for athletes of all ages.”

SB 1122 stipulates that a coach, adult volunteer or individual acting on behalf of the organizing entity must immediately remove a youth from physical activity who is suspected of sustaining a concussion. It also states that the youth may not return until he or she has been evaluated by a health professional and receives written clearance.

“I come to the issue of concussions from the standpoint of a former coach with 37 years of experience,” said Rep. Tom Hooker, R-Byron Center, sponsor of similar legislation in the House. “Many times these injuries occur without medical staff present, making it primarily important that all coaches have the ability to recognize the signs of brain injuries.”

A Brown University study showed that from 1997 to 2007, the number of sports-related concussions among student-athletes ages 13-19 tripled from about 7,000 to 22,000. Doctors now estimate that as many as 30,000 sports-related concussions occur in the U.S. every year, and far too many of these types of injuries are going unreported.

If approved, Michigan would become the 36th state to pass legislation to require young sport agencies to establish a set of concussion awareness guidelines.

Editor’s Note: Audio comments by Sen. Proos are available on the senator’s webpage at Click on “Podcasts.”