Local lawmkers support concussion legislation for young athletes

Eight months after suffering a concussion, Twins infielder Justin Morneau is just now making his way back onto the diamond. But do youth sports have the same kind of rules to keep kids from returning to the game until they're fully healed?

The Brain Injury Association of Minnesota says it's an uneven playing field across the state. The group says 50,000 youth sports concussions are reported in Minnesota every year, but says many more are not reported because they go undiagnosed.

BreAnna Brierley remembers trying to catch a fly ball when she suffered a concussion.

"I must have taken my eye off it just for a split second when I went to go get the ball and look back up, I was knocked out I don't remember it even coming at me," she says.

Brierley suffered a concussion that put her in the hospital for five days and sidelined her for six weeks.

"I was getting headaches. I was still like wobbly it wasn't safe."
Brierley was thoroughly checked out before playing again, but proponents of new legislation say many young athletes return to play before they should.

"This legislation is not going to prevent concussions," says David King of the Brain Injury Association of Minnesota. "What we hope that it will do is to prevent that second impact syndrome, that successive concussion, before the brain has a chance to heal."
King says that could lead to permanent brain damage.

Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, and Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Plymouth, are co-authors of legislation, which aims to educate coaches, officials and players about the symptoms of a concussion. Their bill would require coaches to remove players at the first sign of a concussion and require to keep them out of play until they're cleared to return by a qualified health professional.

"We've had some incidents that have been reported in the press of young people that have had more than one concussion," says Rest.

Sanctioned high school sports already have policies in place, but this bill would also address other youth sports.

"It's about parents, those of us in the legislature or grandparents whose children and grandchildren are involved in youth sports that want to make sure they do so safely," says Rest. 

The bill has bipartisan support in the Minnesota Legislature, but the Brain Injury Association admits could face opposition elsewhere across the state. Hearings on the legislation are set for next month.

"There might be some organizations that find it to be intrusive," says King. "But those are the organizations that need it the most aren't aware of the magnitude of the problem."

After suffering a second concussion on the softball field, Brierley will wear a protective face mask to play a game she still loves, but she knows she has to to be careful.

"I know if I get one more concussion I'm done, so I'm really trying hard."

Mike Johnson, reporting

March 15, 2011


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