Support for expanding concussion laws to younger students

Michael Duerson, founder of The Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, expresses his support for Senate Bill 234 to include student athletes starting in fifth grade. Photo By Anastasia Gentry, TheStatehouseFile.com

Michael Duerson, founder of The Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, expresses his support for Senate Bill 234 to include student athletes starting in fifth grade. Photo By Anastasia Gentry, TheStatehouseFile.com

By Sarah Ramon
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – A new bill would expand the current concussion state laws to cover fifth through 12th grade students participating in any interscholastic or intramural sport.

“Our awareness on what concussions are all about and the idea of traumatic brain injury was so limited [in the past] and there was just, ‘Hey, shake it off and get back on the field,’ and that’s what we’re trying to prevent with this bill,” said author of the bill, Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

Lanane said he believes it is important to include younger children for their protection.

Senate Bill 234, introduced to the Family and Children Services Committee Thursday, would broaden the law to include any sport, including cheerleading in fifth through eighth grade. Under current law, requirements concerning concussions and head injuries only apply to high school student athletes.

In addition, the bill would require all coaches and assistant coaches for any sport to complete certain certified coaching education courses. Under current law, only football coaches and assistant coaches are required to complete training.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, asks for support from the Family and Children Services Committee on Senate Bill 234. Photo By Anastasia Gentry, TheStatehouseFile.com

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, asks for support from the Family and Children Services Committee on Senate Bill 234. Photo By Anastasia Gentry, TheStatehouseFile.com

Part of the bill would require student athletes to take an impact test before participating in a sport and again if a coach suspects the athlete has suffered a concussion.

Michael Duerson provided support for the bill with the story of his brother, Dave Duerson, who was a former player for the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. Dave was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy and passed away in 2011.

“My brother took his life as a result of the disease of CTE,” said Duerson. “My brother was the first athlete to ever put in his last words that his brain be left to the NFL brain bank.”

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that has been found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Symptoms of the disease include aggression, suicide-related behaviors, memory loss and progressive dementia.

Duerson said he was also personally affected by severe head trauma when he sustained a concussion while playing basketball for IUPUI that led to paralysis on his left side for six months.

In honor of his brother’s memory, Duerson founded the Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, Inc. in 2012. Its mission is to educate student athletes in kindergarten through 12th grade on concussion awareness and detection.

“I would ask you to do anything possible to get this bill passed into law,” Duerson ended his testimony.

Dr. Terry Horner, a neurosurgeon and consultant for Indiana University’s football team and the Indianapolis Colts, voiced his support for SB 234 as well.

“Children in junior high, intermediate school and grade school often do not have the proper coaching and even the proper equipment as those in high school and college,” said Horner. “Their immaturity in skills of the sport and their brain development places them at a higher risk.”

He said he was specifically concerned with the safety of younger children.

“I think it is imperative that the law covered those in grades five through eight as well as high school,” Horner said.

SB 234 passed unanimously and will move on to the full Senate.

Sarah Ramon is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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