TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Legislature today unanimously passed a bill that will help prevent head injuries among student athletes in Florida. Sponsored by Senator Anitere Flores, R-Miami, the bill passed unanimously from the Senate and will now be sent to Governor Rick Scott for the opportunity to be signed into law. Educating youth athletes, coaches and parents about the warning signs for concussions, Senate Bill 256 aims to protect injured athletes from getting back into the game too soon.
“I heard personally from concerned constituents about the lack of awareness regarding head injuries and the proper precautions,” said Flores. “All too often, athletes get back in the game without fully considering their injuries and the potential for long-term cognitive deficits. I am very proud of the strides that were made today to help protect Florida’s student athletes and am thankful for the broad support from both sides of the aisle.”
Traumatic brain injuries occur when a player receives a major blow to the head that causes the brain to slam against the skull, resulting in soft tissue injury and cell death. Often, there is a second injury as the brain rebounds against the opposite side of the skull. These injuries can occur in a variety of sports’ games, tryouts and practices, including football, volleyball, baseball, lacrosse and cheerleading. According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy, of the approximately 140,000 high school athletes who suffer concussions each year in the United States, more than 40 percent return to play before properly recovering. Such head injuries can have profound effects on children with developing brains. In extreme cases, injuries can even lead to death.
Currently, at least 30 other states have adopted legislation similar to Flores’ bill, which is supported by the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. SB 256 will educate parents, student athletes and coaches on the risk and identification of brain injuries. It also authorizes the Florida High School Athletic Association and coaches’ associations to create rules for removing student athletes when brain injuries occur, and it establishes a policy to return players back to play after their recovery with the authorization of a doctor.
Seventeen-year-old Miami-Dade County resident David Goldstein and his parents, Adam and Cheryl Goldstein, were among the advocates who came to Tallahassee this session to advocate in support of the bill. David suffered a serious head injury in 2010 when he collided with another soccer player during the district finals for his school team. He knew immediately that something was not right, but he stayed in the game. In the days that followed, David exhibited flu-like symptoms followed by weeks without improvement. The Goldstein family went through months of medical consultations before identifying the proper treatment. Today, David is wise to the potential risks, wears protective headgear and knows how to identify the warning signs of traumatic brain injuries. He has also become an advocate for athlete education and concussion testing at local public schools in his area.
“David’s example resonates because this scary situation could happen to any player and any parent of a student athlete,” added Flores. “Without being educated about the potential risks, parents are simply unaware of the symptoms their child might be experiencing. SB 256 will help individuals assess these situations and provide the proper care.”
Every year thousands of Floridians suffer traumatic brain injuries. Many of the injured are high school athletes, who get back in the game after suffering a concussion. Legislation would take the decision to keep playing out of the hands of players and coaches and make doctors decide.
Tallahassee, FL — February 29, 2012 —
High school junior David Goldstein’s new game is politics. David suffered a concussion during a championship soccer game, and played through his injury.
“We were losing two nothing and I figured I need do everything I can for my team,” said David.
It was a dangerous decision.
“For over three months after my collision, I was sensitive to light and sound, my balance was distorted. I was depressed,” said David.
Athletes who keep playing after suffering a concussion risk brain injury or even death, but in the past it was expected; even applauded. Coaches would perform an on field test. A right answer got the player back in the game. There’s just one huge problem; most coaches aren’t doctors.
“For too long we have said you know what, shake it off, you’re fine, it’s just a bump on the head, go on and get back in the game,” said Flores.
State Senator Anitere Flores is sponsoring a bill requiring medical professionals to decide if an injured athlete can keep playing.
“It has to be someone trained in the management of concussion,” said Flores.
As for David, he’s back on the soccer field “There are bigger things than one game,” he said, and better equipped to protect his health.
The Florida High School Athletic Association has already adopted rules to protect players who’ve suffered concussions. A spokesman for the FHSAA says the legislation will help solidify their new rules.
My trip to Tallahassee was a successful one. The press conference at which I spoke on behalf of the NFL’s effort to promote youth concussion awareness featured several important speakers: Senator Flores, Representative Renuart, former NFL star and current Vice President of The Miami Dolphins Nat Moore, NFL director of government relations and public policy Kenneth Edmonds, and FHSAA Senior Director of Athletics Gary Pigott Several reporters were there covering the press conference (see News Updates for the coverage), and I was personally interviewed after the press conference. I was recognized and applauded by both senators and representatives for my work on behalf of concussion prevention. More good news came today, as the Senate Budget Committee passed Senate Bill 256, sending the concussion legislation to the Senate Floor. We have reached the final step, and the result of it will be a tremendous victory for the youth of Florida.
Youth sports leagues could be the latest group required to educate parents, players and coaches about head injuries and concussions.
Legislators in Florida’s House and Senate could vote this week on bills mandating new training for coaches and increased consent from the parents of young athletes, said sponsor Rep. Ronald “Doc” Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach.
The law would apply rules that were implemented last year for the state’s high school sports programs to other youth sports clubs, such as the Florida Youth Soccer Association and Pop Warner football leagues.
“I think in these club sports, it’s more aggressive and there’s probability of injury,” said Cheryl Goldstein, a Miami mother whose son, David, suffered several concussions over the years while playing high school and club soccer. The teen, now 17, and his parents are lobbying legislators for the law.
Renuart knows some parents, coaches and athletes are skeptical about the rule, which is designed to give a child’s developing brain time to heal properly. But the pressure to get back in a game is secondary to a child’s health, he said.
“We want to … protect Johnny from his own parents or coach,” he said. “Sometimes we have to protect them from themselves.”
Sports-related concussions have been a growing issue for several years. Sports teams, from the peewee level to the National Football League, have been reacting to growing evidence that untreated concussions can cause lasting consequences. If passed, Florida will join 34 other states that have youth concussion policies.
Diana Brett of Davie says the bill can save lives. Her son, Daniel, was a high school freshman football player when he experienced a series of concussions during practice. He didn’t tell his coaches or parents about the injuries for weeks.
For 20 months, Brett said the family tried to treat Daniel’s dizziness, mood swings and migraines, but were unfamiliar with the sensitive nature of treating head injuries. The cumulative damage, and the loss of his dream to play college football, resulted in Daniel’s decision to commit suicide almost a year ago, Brett said. He was 16.
“We don’t want another family to go through the absolute hell we went through,” she said.
The Florida High School Athletic Association policy created a protocol for athletes suspected of having concussion-like symptoms. They are removed from play or practice, and not allowed to return without a doctor’s assessment and approval, which could be days or weeks later. Coaches also are required to watch a 20-minute concussion awareness video.
It’s not clear how similar the requirements are for the dozens of independent youth sports clubs across Florida. One of the largest, the Florida Youth Soccer Association, boasts a membership of more than 100,000 in its recreational and competitive clubs for boys and girls.
The soccer association does include general concussion education resources on its website, but it’s not clear if training is mandatory for coaches. A checklist for assessing concussions also is posted on the website, and includes a recommendation that athletes stay away from play for 24 hours after an injury. Officials did not respond to repeated calls for clarification about the rules.
An estimated 40,000 public and private high school coaches in Florida this school year have seen the training video, said Gary Pigott, Florida High School Athletic Association senior director of athletics. It helps them identify concussion symptoms, and reaffirms the importance of pulling the athlete out of the competition.
“There’s definitely more caution any time a concussion or suspected concussion is sustained,” Pigott said. “Two years ago if somebody hit their head, it was check them out and send them back in.”
Hillsborough County high schools implemented many of these concussion policies before the FHSAA, said Lanness Robinson, the district athletics director. Parent consent forms mention the risks associated to head injuries, and coaches viewed similar concussion education videos.
The local and high school association policies are working in part because they don’t place a financial burden on schools, Robinson said. If youth leagues have the proper infrastructure, implementing these rules can be uneventful, he said.
Renuart and Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, unsuccessfully introduced the bills in 2011. The sticking point involved the practitioners authorized to clear a student athlete to play again. The FHSAA rule and the 2011 bill had designated that role for medical doctors or doctors of osteopathic medicine only.
Renuart, who is an osteopathic physician, said trainers and others may be qualified to identify a concussion. The return-to-play decision, however, needs to be left to people more familiar with a youth’s treatment and recovery.
“They know who is best qualified to make that decision,” he said, adding that last year’s opposition from the chiropractic industry has been dropped.
By MARY SHEDDEN | The Tampa Tribune
Published: February 19, 2012
Good morning. Thank you for coming to listen to my fellow speakers and me. My name is David Goldstein and I am an eleventh grader from Miami who has suffered three concussions playing soccer. I personally have endured the damaging effects of brain injury. I am here now to describe to you what my experience was like, how it inspired me to advocate for concussion prevention, and how the youth athletic concussion legislation is an essential step towards protecting the kids of Florida.
My most recent concussion, which occurred in January 2010, was a result of a head-to-head collision during the biggest soccer game I had ever played. For over three months, after the collision, I was sensitive to light and sound, my balance was distorted, I was depressed, and my head hurt so badly that I had to sleep in the nurse’s office every day in order to be able to get through school.
Though I experienced an ordeal, I consider myself lucky relative to the horror stories that are caused by head trauma. Even though I had previously suffered two concussions, I kept on playing after my most recent concussion because I did not know the potentially devastating consequences of a second impact to my head. Second impact syndrome and multiple concussions can lead to permanent brain damage or even death.
Senate Bill 256 and House Bill 291 will protect Florida youth athletes from this danger by removing youth athletes from practice and competition if they are under suspicion of having suffered a head injury and by keeping them out of practice and competition until they are fully healed. The duration of recovery time varies from athlete to athlete and can be as short as a matter of days, but it is crucial that youth athletes do not return too soon to play if they have suffered from head injury.
I sincerely hope that Senate Bill 256 will pass through the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Floor as quickly as possible, because the youth athletes of Florida need to have a safe athletic environment. I started speaking and raising money towards spreading concussion awareness, education, and management in order to prevent kids from experiencing my struggle or an even worse one. Passing the bill will ensure that the kids of Florida are protected by treating concussions with caution and by putting them in the right hands as quickly as possible. Florida is the only state that has attempted to pass youth concussion legislation and failed. Twenty-three states have passed youth concussion legislation since the legislation in Florida did not pass, and thirty-one states have passed legislation in total. It is our legislature’s responsibility to join the movement to look after the health of youth athletes.
I would now quickly like to thank the National Football League for its support of the youth athlete concussion legislation. Its presence here and its work on behalf of the legislation has been crucial and exemplifies the strong stance the league has taken towards promoting concussion awareness and prevention. I would like to thank Mr. Nat Moore for speaking here for the second year in a row on behalf of the legislation and Mr. Ken Edmonds for spending so much of your busy time to defend this worthy cause. I would also like to thank Mr. Gary Pigott for representing the Florida High School Athletic Association here today.
In closing, I would like to give a special thank you to Senator Flores and Representative Renuart, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that this youth concussion legislation passes. Your time, ability, and effort have driven the legislation this far and will hopefully propel it through the few remaining steps and into law.
Thank you very much for your time, and once again, I hope that this youth concussion legislation becomes law as soon as possible.