The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night adopted a policy on second and final reading as recommended by the Tennessee School Boards Association intended to reduce concussions in youth sports and increase awareness about the traumatic brain injury.
The policy is not just an option. A new state law, which passed last April and took effect January 1, makes learning about the dangers of concussions a prerequisite for competing, while also implementing safeguards to ensure that children who suffer a concussion don't return to play until they are healed.
Under the policy, it is up to local youth leagues for all sports, not just football, to put the procedures into practice. The law applies to public and private school teams and to recreational leagues for children under 18 that require a fee.
It has three key components.
It requires administrators, coaches, parents and youth athletes to be educated about the dangers of concussions and to sign a sheet stating they understand those dangers before competing. Any athlete who displays the symptoms of a concussion would be required to be removed from competition. And any athlete suffering a concussion could not return to play or practice until cleared by a doctor, osteopath or neuropsychologist.
Last month, board members had questions as to the liability regarding youth leagues who use school facilities but are not affiliated with the schools.
An attorney of the Tennessee School Boards Association has said the school system is not liable. Loniel Greene, Assistant Director of Policy Services and Staff Attorney for the TSBA, in an email to Attendance Supervisor Joey Reeder, wrote that "Based on my interpretation of TCA 68-55-502 (state law), each LEA (school system) is only responsible for system sponsored athletic activities. Thus, there is no responsibility for youth leagues that are not sponsored by the system."
National Federation of State High School Associations has developed a free 20 minute course online
entitled "Concussion in Sports-What You Need to Know". The course may be accessed at www.nfhslearn.com.
The Tennessee Department of Health has concussion information available online at http://health.state.tn.us/TBI/concussion.htm.