High School Coaches Could Be Suspended Under Md. Concussion Bill

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — High school coaches in Maryland who knowingly put a player who has suffered a concussion back in a game, would face penalties under a bill being considered in Annapolis.

Maryland law requires young athletes who suffer a suspected concussion or head injury to be removed from play until they get written permission from a doctor to return.

“There’s been so much emphasis on education, awareness and providing information to our school-based personnel. And that’s great, that’s wonderful, that gives a good, solid foundation,” said Del. Mark Chang, a Democrat from Anne Arundel County. “But … we need coaches and we need school personnel out there to abide by those policies.”

The bill he is sponsoring would allow a county school board, at the recommendation of the superintendent, to suspend a coach.

The coach would have the option of requesting a hearing before the board within 10 days of being notified of the suspension.

A first violation would mean a suspension for the rest of the season. A second violation would lead to a suspension for the rest of the season plus all of next season, and a third violation would result in a permanent ban from all athletic coaching.

Chang testified about the bill this week before the House Ways and Means Committee.

Testifying with him was Dr. Timothy Romanoski who specializes in sports medicine and is one of the team doctors for the Chesapeake Bayhawks, a pro men’s field lacrosse team based in Annapolis.

“If you suffer one concussion, you’re now at risk for another concussion,” Romanoski said. “Repeated concussions can lead to chronic headaches, chronic fatigue and other medical illnesses. That includes CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, “which is what we’re seeing it a lot in our older NFL players,” he added.

Romanoski said he’s seen firsthand the pressures coaches face.

“During my training in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, I would have parents come up to me knowing full well that their kid has a concussion and berate me, berate the coaches to get the kid back into play, because ‘they’re being scouted’, ‘it’s their final game’, (or) ‘these are their glory days’,” he said.

“Getting the coaches to realize that they don’t need to succumb to these pressures to do right by the kids kind of gives them more backing with these penalties,” Romanoski added.

Chang introduced the same bill during the last General Assembly session, but it failed.

“We hear the stories about young people who have sustained a concussion, and they get back out on the field and that might be their last game,” Chang said. “That really messes up their lives and it really steals their future away from them. That’s why it’s so important. That’s why I put the bill back in again.”

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