A Georgia bill to ensure proper care and safety following a possible concussion during play is getting plenty of support from local professionals.
Dr. Chad Wagner, sports medicine physician with Harbin Clinic, is a member of the Georgia Concussion Coalition, a group that is one of the main sponsors of the bill.
After working for nearly two years to put it together and seeing it fail to make it out of committee in the General Assembly last year, Wagner said they are very excited to see it pass the State House of Representatives earlier this month.
House Bill 284, the Return to Play Act of 2013, is awaiting a full Senate vote after it was recommended for passage by that chamber’s Education and Youth Committee.
“This is something that is way overdue for Georgia and it will be great when it becomes law,” Wagner said. “It is important for the state to adopt concussion regulations, to set some sort of protocol for the well-being of those who play youth and high school sports.”
The bill would require that even the youngest athletes in Georgia who show the symptoms of a concussion be pulled from games and reviewed by medical professionals.
It would affect public and private schools with organized sports programs as well as public recreation leagues.
Currently, 32 states have similar measures on the books with another 10, including Georgia, in the process of making it a law.
“This will give people the basic framework on concussion identification and encourage education on the topic for parents, players and coaches,” Wagner said. “The removal of the player from an activity is very important. It is how we eliminate catastrophic brain injuries that can become long-lasting.”
The Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority has been working on their own concussion regulations regarding their participants and consider the possible passage of the bill perfect timing.
“Fortunately, we’ve been on the front edge of this topic and the regulations in the bill won’t have a negative impact on what we’re already doing,” RFPRA Executive Director Richard Garland said. “What this bill is requiring recreation departments to do is perfectly in line with what we have established.”
The RFPRA has a partnership with Advance Redmond that puts a certified athletic trainer at games, just in case. Advance Redmond is a joint venture between Advance Rehab and Redmond Regional Medical Center.
“Since we’ve started that, we’ve become more sensitive to those types of injuries,” Garland said. “We’ve conducted in-house training with our staff and established a protocol on how we deal with participants who may be diagnosed with a concussion or displays the symptoms.”
Brad Westerbeck is an athletic trainer with Advance Rehab who has overseen the athletic training programs for area high school sports programs.
“I think that this bill will help us in terms of providing the backing to show how important it is to identify and treat concussions,” Westerbeck said.
The Georgia High School Association adopted a similar policy for all of their member schools a few years ago — keeping an athlete with symptoms of a concussion out of a game until they receive clearance from a physician.
“I believe what the state wants to do is make it a stiffer policy that encompasses all levels of organized youth sports and make sure that people know about it and follow it,” Westerbeck said.