Youth Concussion Legislation

One again State Senator Nancy Spence shows up on a head-scratching piece of legislation, at least from the point of view of those who thought that Republicans opposed the Nanny State.  This time it's Colorado Senate Bill 40, the "Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act".

In a strangely self-congratulatory note from the State Senate Republican Press Office, they claim the legislation will "help to keep young athletes (from 11-19 years old, not including college/university sports) active and safe in three important ways."

In short, those ways are :

  • Requiring coaches to take annual "concussion recognition education",
  • Requiring coaches to remove a "youth athlete" from a game or other competition "if the coach suspects" the athlete has suffered a concussion, and
  • Requiring written clearance by a health care provider before the athlete is allowed to return to competition or practice.

To be fair to the Colorado Nanny Statists, it's not just them who have been sucked in to the "for the children" pleasantness of "keeping youth athletes safe."  Arizona, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states have passed or are considering similar legislation after the NFL got involved, "helping craft legislation in states around the country to protect young athletes from the long-term effects of concussions."  The legislators in the Denver Broncos organization are also supporting the bill.

My homework seems to show that Grandview High School, where the young man for whom the bill is named tragically died after a concussion during a football game, already had rules in place which should have kept a student athlete out  of the game -- if the concussion had been diagnosed.

This comment from the Cherry Creek Schools in 2004 at the time of Jake's death is also worth noting: "His mother is a nurse and his stepfather is a cardiologist, and both were there when he collapsed. His stepfather administered immediate aid."

The real issue here is that kids don't want to come out of games; they love to play and they don't want to look soft. They don't realize they're taking their lives into their hands. After all, didn't we all feel nearly immortal in our teenage years?

Jake's father said Jake showed no symptoms and admitted no headache, nausea, or any other clue to a concussion.  And a Denver Post story from 2004 discusses three young athletes, including Jake, who died from apparent sports-related head injuries but either felt no symptoms or went out of their way to make sure that parents and coaches didn't hear about them.  Perhaps the most effective way to prevent this sort of tragic death is to force kids to tell their parents and coaches when they feel bad, strange, "not quite right", etc., after a collision.  But of course, that's nearly impossible, and to the extent it can be done, it's going to have to come from parents and coaches, not from the law.

When I first read the provisions of this latest Nanny State bill -- even as someone who thinks that the government has a higher duty to protect children than to protect adults -- it struck me as a recipe for two things: Keeping kids out of games in much greater numbers and frequencies than injuries would actually suggest, and creating work for ambulance-chasing trial lawyers.

Wondering if I was being just heartless -- something liberals often accuse libertarians of -- I asked Republican State Senator Greg Brophy what his view is of the proposed bill.  Here's Brophy's take:

Of course not.  It will actually make matters worse.  If coaches follow the law in good faith, no kid will get back into a game after being pulled for concern over possible concussion.  Because only a Doc (and a couple other professionals) can release them to play and many of these kids sporting events aren't attended by Docs. So a typical boy will hide any symptoms because he knows if he gets pulled, he won't be put back in.  Duh.

Also, the sport with the most concussions is girls soccer.  They would't get concussed if they wore mouth guards and had their jaws clenched when the head butt the ball.  Or we could just ban commie kickball altogether.

I may end up being the only vote against this stupid bill.

UPDATE: I am told that Republican State Senators Shawn Mitchell and Kevin Lundberg voted against the bill in committee, so Greg Brophy won't be the only no vote.

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