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Stephen Levin to introduce Youth Football Safety Act

Addresses growing problem of concussions and head injuries in youth football

January 29, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Councilmember Stephen Levin is announcing that he will introduce the Youth Football Safety Act, legislation that would create new safety measures for youth teams who play in New York City. The announcement comes days before football’s biggest game, the Super Bowl, is to be played in the New York City area.

The legislation requires a doctor on premises for every single football game, as well as an athletic trainer or doctor on premises for all full contact practices, and takes the decision of when to administer standardized assessment of concussion testing out of the hands of coaches and into those of medical experts. Additionally, the legislation requires that NYC Parks permit applications only be provided if it is indicated that the necessary medical professional will be in attendance, and requires increased reporting on all injuries and standardized assessment of concussion testing. The legislation would affect all youth teams in New York City including, but not limited to, the Public High School League (PSAL), Catholic High School League, and Pop Warner leagues.

Currently, there are some leagues like the PSAL who place a doctor on premises for games, but there is nothing in law that requires it from all youth leagues, nor has there been a requirement for athletic trainers or doctors on premise during full contact practices. Additionally, coaches have been allowed to administer standardized assessment of concussion testing, even when a doctor is present at a game. The disturbing docu-series ‘Friday Night Tykes’, which displays a youth football culture where winning is all-important, is just another example that in some instances, the health and safety of young athletes are not being prioritized.

“Football teaches teamwork and sportsmanship, builds character, and keeps our children active, but safety has to be prioritized before winning games. ‘Friday Night Tykes’ cannot be the norm in youth football,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “NFL players like Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson – starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl – have to undergo extensive testing by medical professionals to return to play after suffering a concussion, yet we do not require anything close to that for our children.”

“This legislation will take the health and well-being of our children out of the hands of coaches and into those of medical professionals. For the love of the game, we must act now to protect our children and make youth football safer.”

It has been well-documented that concussions are a serious issue at all levels of youth football. In 2012, a single Pop Warner game in Massachusetts resulted in five concussions. Additionally, a 2013 joint report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council report found that the average high school football player is nearly twice as likely to suffer a brain injury as a college player.

Deanna M. Errico, President of the New York State Athletic Trainers’ Association, said, “The New York State Athletic Trainers’ Association is excited about the Youth Football Safety Act.  Youth sports do not come without risks and the safety of young kids relies on providing the appropriate medical coverage with preventative care, on-field care, and rehabilitation as well as concussion recognition and management that will come with providing athletic trainers and physicians on the sidelines. We would be happy to see this plan passed in New York City and spread across the state to provide safer environments for all sports.”

Football players have a clear desire to play in spite of injury. Earlier this week, survey results showed that 85% of NFL players would play in the Super Bowl with a concussion, despite the serious consequences of playing with a concussion. With this legislation, the decision of when an athlete returns to play is taken out of the hands of coaches and into those of medical professionals.

Jim Gossett, Head Athletic Trainer at Columbia University, said, “As an athletic trainer that has worked in New York since 1979, I know the young student-athletes in New York City need support to allow them to play the demanding sport of football. Throughout the United States the trend over the past twenty years has been to give youth sports programs knowledgeable professionals to evaluate and care for potential traumatic brain injury and catastrophic injuries. For those reasons, I am supporting the proposed Youth Football Safety Act that would require youth football teams in New York City to have athletic trainers and physicians on the sidelines to evaluate student athletes for concussion after they’re “shaken up” during practice or competition.”

The legislation includes the following requirements for youth football:

  •          Any football game played on New York City property (DOE, DPR) must have a doctor on premises throughout the whole game. The game cannot begin if a physician is not present.
  •          Any full contact practice conducted on New York City property must have either an athletic trainer or a doctor on premises throughout the whole practice. The practice cannot begin if the physician or athletic trainer is not present.
  •         The decision to administer the Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC) to any student-athlete shall rest entirely within the purview of the doctor (in the case of a game) or athletic trainer or doctor (in the case of a full contact practice) and shall not be subject to interference by any coach, athletic director or other party- including family members.  A coach or athletic director can however, request that the on-site doctor or athletic trainer administer the SAC to a student-athlete that they suspect of having suffered a concussion.
  •          All NYC Parks Department permit applications for either a full contact practice or a game must affirm that there will be either an athletic trainer or a doctor on premises (doctor for a game, athletic trainer or doctor for full contact practice) throughout the course of said event.
  •          The attendant athletic trainer or doctor must confirm and document their presence at the event and list any and all injuries to students suffered during the game/practice, if any standardized assessment of concussion tests were administered and their results, and if the student-athlete was allowed back onto the field of play and if so why such decision was made. These forms must be submitted to the permitting agency and remain on file.
  •       All youth football leagues must submit to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and/or the Department of Education a full reporting of concussions and other serious injuries sustained throughout the football season.

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