Connecticut’s New Law To Protect Student Athletes

September 23, 2010

Now that the school year is underway, student athletes are getting ready to compete in school sports. And, as always, parents and coaches are doing their best to walk a fine line between encouraging the kids to do their best and warning them to be careful not to get hurt.

According to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), more than 100,000 students play high school sports in this state. Each year, between 5,000 and 8,000 suffer concussions. As any health care professional will confirm, head injuries are nothing to fool around with.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed legislation to ensure that school coaches have the right training to recognize and respond when they know, or suspect, that a student athlete has a concussion or head injury. Under the new law, anyone with a coaching permit issued by the State Board of Education who coaches intramural or interscholastic sports must be trained to recognize and respond to head injuries and concussions. Furthermore, they must immediately take students out of the game, practice session or other athletic activity if they have reason to believe they have been injured in this way. Coaches may not allow these students to return to supervised team activities involving physical exertion until they get written clearance from a licensed physician, physician assistant, advanced practice registered nurse, or athletic trainer trained to evaluate and manage concussions. Even following medical clearance, coaches must restrict injured athletes’ participation until they no longer exhibit signs of concussion, at rest or at play, and have received written medical clearance allowing full participation.

The State Board of Education may revoke the coaching permit of any coach who violates the provisions of this new law. Every intramural and interscholastic athletic coach working in a public elementary, middle, or high school is required to have either a five-year coaching permit, or a temporary emergency permit that is valid for one year and renewable once.

Coaches with existing permits, and those getting permits for the first time, are required to complete an approved training course regarding concussions and head injuries. Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, coaches will be required to complete a refresher course every five years. Beginning on July, 1, 2011, those who have completed the initial training but who are between required refresher courses must review current and relevant information on concussions and head injuries before starting their annual coaching assignments.

Under the new law, the initial training course must include instruction in recognizing the symptoms of a concussion or head injury; how to obtain proper medical treatment for an athlete suspected of having such an injury; and the nature and risk of such injuries. In addition, the course must include information about the danger of continuing to play and the proper method of allowing an athlete to return to play after he or she sustains a concussion or head injury. Refresher courses must include an overview of key recognition and safety practices, along with information about updated research regarding concussions and head injuries and the prevention. The refresher course must also update participants on relevant new laws and regulations.

I encourage anyone interested in learning more about this new law to visit the Connecticut General Assembly website at www.cga.ct.gov. Use the “quick search” bar at the top of the webpage to find Public Act 10-62, Senate Bill 456, An Act Concerning Student Athletes and Concussions. Meanwhile, I welcome the opportunity to discuss this new law and the issues important to our state. I can be reached at my legislative office in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421, or via e-mail to [email protected]