Governor Steve Beshear, joined by Rep. Joni Jenkins and school and athletics officials, today ceremonially signed legislation to protect students who participate in athletics, particularly those who may suffer concussions.
"Participating in sports can be one of the most fun and rewarding parts of a student's high school years," Gov. Beshear said. "Our kids learn lessons about teamwork on the field or court that we can't teach in class, but we've got to keep them safe from the potentially lifelong consequences of injuries like concussions. This is common-sense legislation to keep kids healthy while they pursue sports and their education."
Sponsored by Rep. Jenkins, House Bill 281 (HB 281) requires coaches to be trained on how to appropriately recognize and treat concussions, as part of sports safety training that they are already required to take. The legislation also extends to middle school athletes provisions that previously applied only to high school.
"Concussions can occur at any age and in any sport," Rep. Jenkins said. "Whether students are in middle school or high school, their coaches need the proper training to know the signs of a concussion. Parents and students need that information, too, and this legislation means they will get it. I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for their bipartisan and unanimous support for these protections for student athletes."
The protections will take effect in the 2012-2013 school year. Besides training for coaches, the law provides that educational materials on how to recognize the symptoms and seek proper medical care for concussion victims will be made available to students, parents, and the general public.
Student athlete physicals, which are already required, will include acknowledgement that the student and parents have received educational materials about concussions. A concussion or possible concussion will mean the student cannot practice or compete until he or she is medically evaluated again.
"Our coaches give students a wonderful opportunity to excel at athletics, but they know it's also their responsibility to make sure our student athletes stay safe," said Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens. "We have already taken steps in our school district to address concussion education, and the legislation that Gov. Beshear signs today is another major step toward preventing potentially serious injuries."
The legislation requires at least one coach or individual who has completed the safety course to be present at every practice and competition. Schools will also have to have an emergency plan for dealing with potentially serious injuries