With student-athletes resuming fall sports throughout the country, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (both D-NJ) today reintroduced the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act to provide federal resources to help protect student-athletes from the dangers of sports-related concussions.
"The beginning of every school year reminds us of the importance of making sure our young athletes are competing as safely as possible," said Sen. Menendez. "Schools and athletic programs have a responsibility to make sure our young people engage in safe athletic competition. This legislation, which was originally introduced after Ryne Dougherty's passing, will help provide resources to schools to make sure they have enough athletic trainers, medical staff and training to diagnose and treat concussions."
"As Co-Chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, I have been fighting for the last 12 years to protect our athletes on the playing field from the devastating effects of sports-related concussions," said Rep. Pascrell. "Thanks to our previous efforts, the CDC is currently working on national guidelines for clinicians to treat traumatic brain injury in our youth. Now we need to ensure that schools are able to implement the best recommendations for addressing concussions when they occur on the playing field. Understanding the dangers multiple concussions pose to our children, it's imperative we educate ourselves and our athletes on how to best protect them. By providing additional resources to schools and coaches, this legislation will move us one step closer to ensuring the safety of our youngest athletes on the playing field."
The Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act of 2013 authorizes a five-year grant program for $5 million for the first year and such sums as necessary for the remaining four years. Grants will be awarded to states to provide professional development for athletic trainers and coaches and ensure schools have adequate medical staff coverage all to implement best practices in concussion diagnosis, treatment, and management. Grant guidelines will be based off recommendations from the CDC's Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Expert Panel.
According to the CDC, each year, U.S. emergency departments (EDs) treat an estimated 173,285 sports- and recreation-related mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (mTBIs), including concussions among children and adolescents from birth to 19 years. Many of these mTBIs are suffered by middle and high school students participating in athletics, but many schools do not have the resources to adequately diagnose and treat these injuries. As a result, studies have shown that as many as 41 percent of high school athletes return to the field before their brain has an opportunity to heal from a previous concussion.
The consequences of returning to activity too soon cannot be overstated. A repeat concussion -- one that occurs before the brain recovers from a previous concussion -- can not only slow recovery, it also increases the likelihood of having long-term problems. Repeat concussions can result in second impact syndrome, which can be marked by brain swelling, permanent brain damage, and even death
Senator Menendez and Congressman Pascrell were both primary sponsors of the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act in the House and Senate, respectively, following the tragic death of Montclair High School football player Ryne Dougherty in October 2008.
The original legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2010, provided for national protocols to be established for managing sports-related concussions for student athletes from the 5th grade to the 12th grade. In response to Sen. Menendez's and Rep. Pascrell's request in February 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified the lawmakers that it would convene the Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Expert Panel, which will establish the national protocols.
The guidelines and recommendations are expected to be finalized in 2015.